Behavioral Therapy For Sleeping Problems Instead Of Sleeping Pills 

Almost everyone has episodes of insomnia when it seems that falling asleep is just about impossible.  These times of futilely tossing and turning in bed can feel like torture, cause some people to dread bedtime, and even become a self-fulfilling prophecy of not sleeping. — Clifford N. Lazarus Ph.D.

Many people are suffering from a vicious cycle of difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early and inability to go back to sleep. This common sleep disorder is widely known as insomnia, and it affects a huge part of the world’s population. Sleep disorders can interfere with one’s daily life which directly affects one’s mood, energy, and overall health. The best and most effective way to address insomnia is not with the use of sleeping pills, but rather cognitive behavioral therapy. 

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Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a recommended treatment for chronic insomnia because it helps in relaxing one’s mind, changing one’s outlook in life, improving daytime habits and aids in having a good night’s sleep. Certified Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialists recommend undergoing behavioral therapy as part of the initial management in treating sleeping disorders. Unlike sleeping pills, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia has no unpleasant side effects or long-term health concerns; instead, it primarily helps a person overcome the real causes of sleep problems. If cognitive behavioral therapy is done right and patient sticks with it, CBT will have a long-term effect in eliminating insomnia. It may not be practical to everyone, and many people will find it very costly, but for those who have tried this type of therapy, they can approve that it has a tremendous impact in treating insomnia. 

How Does It Work? 

The cognitive therapy in CBT-I helps a person identify and modify beliefs that play a significant impact on the ability to sleep and can help erase negative thoughts that make a person not able to fall asleep. On the other hand, behavioral therapy suggests habits that promote good sleep and prevent a person from doing things that can hinder in sleeping well. 

A patient may utilize some of these techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy with the guidance of the therapist: 

Stimulus Control Therapy 

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Be patient with yourself and know that good sleep hygiene doesn’t happen overnight. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

In this method, the patient will be coached by the therapist to perform bed routines that can remove factors which control one’s mind not to feel sleepy. Commonly, the therapist will set a sleeping and waking schedule and other guidelines that will aid the person to fall asleep easily such as avoiding naps during the daytime.   

Sleep Hygiene 

Nicotine in cigarettes and caffeine in food substances like coffee, chocolates, and even teas are known stimulants that suppress sleep. By getting rid of these habits – smoking and taking in caffeine – can dramatically improve one’s sleep patterns. Other lifestyle habits that are known to affect sleep are not getting regular exercise and heavy drinking of alcohol. 

The mind-body influences of a certain piece can bring calm and fast sleep that usually lasts all night. — Joseph Cardillo Ph.D.

Sleep Environment Improvement 

A person who has a comfortable sleeping environment can influence sleep – keeping the room dark and fresh, with ambient sounds, avoiding TV, and keeping the alarm clock out of sight.  

Relaxation Training 

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This approach helps an individual calm his mind and body. It includes imagery, muscle relaxation, meditation, and breathing exercises. 

Remaining Passively Awake (Paradoxical Intention) 

This strategy involves avoiding any effort to fall asleep. Worrying about the inability to fall asleep can make a person not to fall asleep. Stop looking at the clock and getting anxious that you are not asleep yet. 

Biofeedback 

A therapist may allow the patient to bring home a biofeedback device to monitor vital signs such as heart rate, muscle tension and other relevant details that have effects in sleep. It will help the therapist in identifying patterns that makes the person unable to sleep. 

If symptoms of insomnia persist and creates some significant adverse effects in your daily functioning, it is best to consult a sleep medicine specialist to diagnose the underlying reasons and obtain proper treatment.