A Step-By-Step Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an immediate, goal and outcome based psychotherapy treatment that requires active participation and is a practical approach to solving problems. Its goal is to modify patterns of thinking and behavior that are associated with people’s difficulties, resulting in changing the way they feel.

Insomnia is defined as the inability to sleep or sleeplessness. Those who suffer from insomnia complain that even when they are tired, they still are unable to rest and fall asleep.

Medical Diagnosed Causes Of Insomnia Include:

Psychological Conditions That Cause Insomnia Include:

Psychological Conditions That Cause Insomnia

Lifestyle Influences On Insomnia

  • A blended work and home environment. When a person works from home, it is hard to disconnect from work obligations when the two environments are combined.
  • Screen lights can suppress* melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that is the main pre-curser to sleep. The secretion of melatonin happens when the sun goes down but if you are behind bright lights including televisions, phones, computers and tablets, the melatonin production will be less* and it can actually make your brain more alert.
  • Napping has its proven* health benefits, but naps that are longer the 20-30 minutes can have a negative influence on your body’s ability to fall asleep in the evening time. If naps are a usual habit, you may be disrupting your body’s natural biorhythm.
  • Your wake up and go to bed times vary dramatically. Humans thrive on routine, and when our sleep pattern is all over the place, our body cannot get into a natural rhythm, making it harder for our body to fall asleep easily.
  • Shift work has been shown to have a negative impact on overall health for those who do not sleep according to the natural light. When the sun is up our body is intended to be awake, and when the sun is down asleep. Those who do shift work have to put in extra effort to mimic dark during the day when sleep is needed to survive. Blocking out all light with thick dark curtains and adhering to a regular meal schedule can help reduce* the negative effects of shift work.
  • Excessive caffeine. Drinking large amounts of coffee, energy drinks or sodas with caffeine can have a negative influence on quality sleep. Avoid drinking caffeine at least 8 hours before bedtime.
  • Stressful lifestyle and adrenal resistance can have a negative impact on quality sleep. If you have a demanding career and/or packed family schedule start practicing stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, journaling, etc. There needs to be some down time before you attempt to sleep so your brain can clear out and calm down before your body is ready to rest overnight. If the stress hormone cortisol spikes before bed your adrenal glands may secrete adrenaline giving you a false sense of energy. Cortisol is supposed to be higher in the morning and taper off in the afternoon and evening for adequate rest. The problem with today’s society is the mental and physical stress we have disrupts our body’s natural cortisol secretion, which is a major negative influence on sleep quality.

There is saliva test that can be done to learn your body’s cortisol levels throughout the day. Upon receiving your results, a qualified health professional can help you figure out a nutrition and exercise schedule to use.

Insomnia Danger Info

Cognitive Therapy Strategies For Insomnia (CBT-I)

Stimulus Control*. Avoid things, people or situations that require a response. This includes phone calls, e-mails, gadgets, etc. Limit your bed use to only sleep and sex, avoid reading, or any other screen time in bed. If you control* how you are stimulated and the feelings that go along with being stimulated, you will increase* the likelihood of quality sleep. This may influence your thoughts about bedtime, instead of being frustrated you will view it as peaceful and restful, decreasing* the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.

Sleep Restriction. This may sound counterproductive but sleep restriction can eliminate* the tossing and turning an insomniac experiences. If you are only sleeping 5 hours per night but are in your bed for 8 hours then go to bed 3 hours later then normal, you will be more tired and as your ability to fall asleep improves* start going to bed earlier, 15-30 minute increments are best.

Stress Release. Learning how to control* your body with muscle tension, breath and mental focus will give you more control* over your body when it feels like it is out of control*. You can start with closing your eyes and taking deep breaths, focusing on how you feel as your lungs move, then consider taking up a mindful exercise practice like yoga, Pilates, martial arts, etc. The amount of focus and muscle control* you need to train in these fitness modalities will spill over into your physical and emotional state of mind. You will have better* control* over yourself in those frustrating moments of insomnia.

A great way to measure the effects of your stress reduction* is biofeedback. Biometric measurements such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and chronic pain.

Psychotherapy is a powerful tool when your thoughts and anxiety are the roots of your insomnia. If you feel like you just cannot get off of the mental roller coaster see a qualified therapist for strategies to quiet your brain. Strategies may include simple mantra or peaceful imagery; both can help calm down the mind and allow your body to relax enough to fall asleep. These sessions will need to be frequent in the beginning and will taper off as the patient progresses.

Eating a Diet Rich

Nutrition Our body thrives on chemically pure foods that are as unprocessed as they come. Eating a diet rich in fast food, processed snacks and sugary drinks will negatively affect your brain. Focus on consuming at least 9 servings of vegetables and some fruits per day, have heart-healthy fats from oils such as coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.

At all meals and snacks, have quality protein at each meal and make sure you are hydrated with at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Hydroxide rich alkaline water will reduce* inflammation and acidity in the body, having a positive influence on sleep quality also.

Conclusion

Sleep hygiene and quality is always a work in progress. If there is one thing that is off and imbalanced in your life, it can set you back into insomnia. Be mindful of your sleep hygiene and aim for life balance daily.

  • Engage in mindful exercise.
  • Avoid caffeine in the later hours of the afternoon and evening.
  • Have a therapist help you will breathing, imagery and stimulus control* strategies.
  • Limit screen time in the hour before you plan to go to bed.
  • Consume a high-quality nutrition diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, protein and hydroxide rich alkaline water.

References

  • https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-causes-insomnia
  • http://www.sleepeducation.org/treatment-therapy/cognitive-behavioral-therapy

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Author

Expert Author : Dr. Keith Kantor (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Kantor has been an advocate of natural food and healthy living for 30 years. He is also on the Board of Directors for NAMI.org in Gwinnett. NAMI is the largest non profit in the United States dealing with Mental Illness including substance abuse. He has a PhD in Nutritional Science. He has also written three books(see http://www.drkeithkantor.com and http://www.namedprogram.com ). Dr.Kantor has also been on several hundred Radio shows, T. V. shows, Newspapers and Magazines, speaking on how to live a healthy lifestyle,