Treating Insomnia: Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is More Effective Than Sleeping Pills

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Treating Insomnia: Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is More Effective Than Sleeping Pills

As many as 30% of Americans struggle with insomnia, dealing with poor sleep or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. Poor sleep isn’t just about feeling tired the next day (although that's a concern). Chronic sleep problems also increase your risk of serious health problems like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

If you have insomnia, it’s not that you don’t want to sleep. You may struggle with sleep because of underlying problems, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse. Or, you may not be getting those zzz’s because of something called psychophysiological insomnia, which is when your body and mind learn that the bed isn’t for sleeping. Instead of being associated with rest, the bed and bedroom may make you feel more awake.

Have you ever had the experience of struggling to keep your eyes open while watching television on the couch and then being wide awake when you get to bed? That’s psychophysiological insomnia. 

It can be challenging to find a solution that helps you catch the z’s you need night after night, especially when you don’t like the idea of taking medication on a regular basis.

At Atlanta Insomnia and Behavioral Health Services, our team helps women and men overcome sleep problems with cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a type of psychotherapy designed specifically for sleep troubles. 

Here, learn why insomnia happens and how CBT-I can help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy 101

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses a variety of techniques to explore and change negative behaviors and thought patterns that drive insomnia, depression, anxiety, and other issues. The goal of CBT is to unlearn those negative patterns and behaviors, replacing them with positive patterns and coping strategies.

Patients and therapists work together to create a personalized therapeutic approach based on each patient’s specific needs, concerns, and goals. In addition to therapy sessions, patients receive homework to help them practice strategies in their own environments.

In other words, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia go beyond tip sheets and “sleep hygiene” to help you get to the bottom of your specific problem.

How CBT-I works

CBT-I looks at insomnia as a learned behavior that can be unlearned, just like any bad habit. Specifically, it focuses on helping you sleep better in your specific environment and circumstances rather than focusing on general sleep-improvement tips or advice.

Generally, therapy involves CBT techniques to help you examine thoughts or behaviors about sleep, as well as behaviors that may be affecting your ability to get restful sleep on a regular basis. In addition, we typically recommend other techniques depending on your needs.

Relaxation techniques

While meditation is a well-known relaxation technique, it doesn’t work for everyone. We can help you learn other techniques, like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery to help you rid yourself of stress while slipping gently into sleep.

Stimulus control

Surfing the web, watching TV, and even reading can reduce feelings of sleepiness, energizing you and making it harder to drift off. Stimulus control involves prohibiting these activities in your sleeping space, and using your sleeping area only for sleep and sex.

Sleep restriction

Sleep restriction focuses on avoiding daytime napping and limiting your sleep to your actual sleep duration. The result is a mild form of sleep deprivation that helps you sleep more soundly at night.

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene includes the activities you perform each day to get ready for bed, like:

  • Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up time
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening
  • Not indulging in bedtime snacks
  • Avoiding screen time before bed
  • Keeping a cool, dark sleep environment

Observing these habits consistently helps your body and mind prepare for sleep.

Every CBT-I plan is different, and your plan may not include all these activities. Most courses of therapy last about five to seven sessions spaced two weeks apart.

Put your sleep troubles to bed

Don’t let insomnia rob you of a good night’s sleep or your good health. To learn how we can help, request an appointment online or over the phone with our team at Atlanta Insomnia and Behavioral Health Services in Decatur, Georgia, today.