Cognitive therapy for sleep problems has been and especially for insomnia, which accounts for over 80% of sleep problems. Sometimes, a behavioral analysis can help determine negative habits which interfere with the natural sleep process. Once identified, relatively simple, straight forward behavioral changes can often correct these problems. Often times, individuals create a negative habit of worrying, planning or just overthinking at bedtime. Cognitive therapy teaches clients to recognize the connection between their thoughts and feelings. Clearly, arousal, whether it is brought on by worriesome thoughts or exciting thoughts are not helpful when wanting to go to sleep. In cognitive therapy for sleep problems, the therapist teaches the client how to shift their thoughts to ones more conducive to sleep.
At times chronic sleep problems can cause problems of fatigue, irritability, short temper,anger and depression. It is also true that depression and anxiety disorders can also cause sleep disorders like insomnia.
Many times, a hectic lifestyle or a “type A” non stop personality can make it difficult for the brain to slow down as it is supposed to prepare for sleep. Maintaining an active mind at bedtime makes it difficult to fall asleep and/ or stay asleep.
Some clients develop anticipatory worries about not being able to sleep which triggers the anxiety which then keeps them up. Cognitive therapists call this having a problem about a problem. For example, ” I won’t be able to fall asleep. I will be so tired tomorrow that I will probably be late to work and not do a very good job. My boss might notice this and I will get in trouble. I might even get fired”. As you can see, this “domino” effect of thoughts can easily escalate and negatively impact sleep.
Cognitive therapy for sleep problems can be an effective treatment and worthwhile alternative to relying on pills which can be addictive and have negative side effects.
A careful cognitive behavioral assessment is key to deciding what type and combination of treatment strategies will be most effective in overcoming sleep difficulties. Often times, training in deep muscle relaxation, guided imagery can do the trick. Sometimes, dealing with underlying problems and worries is needed before normal sleep returns.