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When a sleep disorder makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep or causes you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep, it can drastically affect your mood and physical health. Issues like chronic insomnia often co-occur with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Many mental health professionals help patients overcome the underlying causes of their sleep problems with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is sometimes called CBT-I for treatment of insomnia.
You may not realize that there are behaviors and ways of thinking that can affect your ability to get good sleep. The cognitive element of CBT teaches you to recognize and change negative thoughts and beliefs that keep you awake and influence your ability to sleep. The behavioral part of CBT helps you learn how to develop positive habits and avoid behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well.
Your sleep therapist may ask you to keep a detailed sleep diary for a week or two to determine the most effective way to treat your sleep disorder.
Depending on your specific needs and circumstances, your therapist may recommend some or all of these CBT-I techniques:
Changing And Replacing Negative Thoughts: Identifying, challenging, and replacing negative thoughts with more positive and realistic thoughts can drastically reduce anxiety and help you get a good night’s sleep. Creating realistic, calming statements you can say to yourself as you’re preparing for sleep can also be an invaluable tool.
Stimulus Control Therapy: This technique helps you get rid of habits and factors that condition your mind to struggle against sleep. Some methods include setting a consistent bedtime and wake time, avoiding naps, using your bed only for sleep and sex, and getting up if you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, returning to your bed only when you feel sleepy.
Sleep Restriction: Lying in bed when you’re awake can become a bad habit that leads to poor sleep. Sleep restriction cuts down the time you spend in bed, which can cause partial sleep deprivation and make you more tired the following night, so it’s easier to fall asleep. When sleep improves, your time in bed is progressively increased.
Sleep Hygiene: This involves making lifestyle changes that influence sleep. Smoking and drinking too much caffeine or alcohol late in the day can seriously interfere with your ability to sleep. Your therapist may encourage you to get daily exercise to improve your sleep and give you tips on how to wind down an hour or two before bedtime.
Sleep Environment Improvement: Changing your environment can have a significant impact on sleep. This offers ways that you can create a comfortable sleep environment. Keeping your bedroom quiet, dark and cool, hiding the clock from view and not keeping a TV and other screens in your bedroom can all make a huge difference in your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Relaxation Training: Deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and other techniques can help calm your mind, body and nervous system, which makes it easier to fall asleep.
Remaining Passively Awake (Paradoxical Intention): Worrying about not being able to sleep can create anxiety that keeps you awake. Letting go of this worry and abandoning your efforts to sleep may, paradoxically, help you unwind and fall asleep.
Biofeedback: Biofeedback devices allow you to observe physiological signs that may be keeping you awake, such as heart rate and muscle tension. Understanding these biological patterns can help you recognize and control your body’s physical anxiety response that impacts sleep patterns.
Developing cognitive and behavioral techniques to reduce stress and combat sleep disorders takes time and commitment, but the physical and emotional benefits you reap are well worth the effort. At Brunswick Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine, our holistic, multidisciplinary approach and coordination of care with mental health specialists can help you find relief from your sleep disorder. Contact us online or call 732-246-3066 to schedule an appointment today.