The National Sleep Foundation’s annual ‘Sleep Awareness Week’ will be held March 12-18, 2023. This annual event celebrates sleep health and encourages the public to prioritize sleep to improve their overall health and well-being. Sleep is as necessary a part of daily life as is eating and drinking. Experiencing prolonged periods of lack of sleep can result in both short- and long-term health consequences. Lack of sleep negatively impacts physiological processes, cognitive performance, and mood. Whereas, good sleep behaviours are associated with reduced risk of adverse health conditions, including mortality, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental and cognitive disorders, accidents, and injuries. One of the sleep disorders people can suffer from is insomnia.
WHAT IS INSOMNIA?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines insomnia as follows – in·som·nia: prolonged and usually abnormal inability to get enough sleep especially due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Dr. Daniel J. Buysse, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, defines insomnia as, “a patient-reported problem characterized by difficulty falling asleep or difficulty maintaining sleep – i.e., frequent awakenings, difficulty returning to sleep after awakenings, or awakening too early with inability to return to sleep.”
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M SUFFERING FROM INSOMNIA?
Difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early, and sleep that is chronically nonrestorative or poor in quality, are all indicators of insomnia. It’s important to note that the clinical disorder, or syndrome of insomnia, is distinguishable from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can occur because of abnormal circumstances or situations that disrupt normal sleep patterns, where an individual suffering from insomnia has the adequate opportunity and normal circumstances needed for sleep but is unable to do so. Additionally, chronic insomnia has identifiable and significant distress symptoms during wakefulness.
AWAKE BUT NOT RESTED
If you are not getting enough sleep and you are concerned you may be suffering from Chronic Insomnia, one or more of the following forms of daytime impairment will be evident in your life:
fatigue or despondency
attention, concentration, or memory impairment
social or vocational dysfunction
poor school/work performance
mood disturbance, such as irritability, anxiousness, restlessness and depression
daytime drowsiness and/or sleepiness
lack of motivation, and/or a lack of physical energy
proneness for errors or accidents at work or while driving
tension, headaches, or gastrointestinal symptoms
concerns or worries about sleep.
Most people would attest, that at one time or another, they have experienced sleep disruptions. However, chronic insomnia is a whole other animal and attempting to live with it can be a challenge.
CBT FOR INSOMNIA: HOW IT WORKS
If you are suffering from insomnia, CBT can help by exploring the connection between the way you think, the things you do, and how you sleep. A trained therapist will help you identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that are contributing to the symptoms of insomnia. These thoughts and feelings about sleep are then examined and tested to see if they’re accurate, while behaviours are examined to determine if they promote or inhibit sleep. The therapist can then help you clarify or reframe any misconceptions and challenges in a way that is more conducive to restful sleep.
WHY SLEEP THOUGHTS ARE IMPORTANT
People who suffer from insomnia often have inaccurate or dysfunctional thoughts about sleep that lead to behaviours that make sleeping more difficult. One example of this would be when a person has had prior experiences of insomnia and now are afraid of or worried about not falling asleep. This worry may lead to spending excessive time lying in bed and being fixated on the thought of the need to fall asleep. This worry and fixation could become a frustrating, nightly cycle that is hard to break. CBT can help identify erroneous thoughts and beliefs surrounding anxiety about past experiences of insomnia, or other consequences of missed sleep.
YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT IS IMPORTANT
If you are experiencing insomnia, chances are, you are dreading going to your bedroom because you’ve associated it with sleeplessness and exasperation. CBT can be the solution to reclaim your bedroom as a space for restful sleep. Some of the habits that are detrimental to a healthy sleep environment are often uncovered during CBT sessions. Habits, like watching TV, scrolling the computer or cellphone, working, eating and reading in bed, are all conditioning stimuli that fight against sleeping. During CBT, clients will learn the bed is only used for sleep – (and let’s not leave this out, it’s also for sex with that special someone as well!)
YOUR SLEEP BEHAVIOURS ARE IMPORTANT
With insomnia, people generally spend too much time lying in bed wide awake. Lying in bed awake unable to fall asleep can produce physiological responses conducive to sleeplessness. To make matters worse, often accompanying lying in bed awake are the racing thoughts and tension produced by not being able to sleep. CBT for insomnia will assist you in restricting the time you spend in bed to sleep only and to re-establish a consistent sleep schedule. By reducing your time in bed to the actual amount of sleep you get on a typical night, you are helping to retrain your body to know when it’s sleep time. Using this technique, time in bed is reduced until it is reasonably close to the time you spend sleeping. Once your body becomes accustomed to sleeping while in bed, rather than lying awake, you can gradually begin increasing the amount of sleep time until you reach the hours you require.
TIPS FOR SLEEPING
Sleep health and well-being are the goals when utilizing CBT to combat insomnia. Whether you are in therapy now or considering CBT in the near future, there are some basic sleep principles that anyone coping with sleep issues can try.
Tip #1 – Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Keeping a regular, predictable sleep schedule will promote a healthy rhythm for your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
Tip #2 – Avoid lying awake in bed.
If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and find something relaxing to do until you start feeling tired again.
Tip #3 – Create a pre-sleep routine.
It’s important to prepare yourself for sleep. Give yourself enough time to get ready for bed. Avoid excessive stimulation well before bedtime such as physical exercise, coffee, or alcohol. Turn off your electronics well before bedtime and begin limiting and lowering the amount of light in your surroundings. Also, be sure to begin unwinding and relaxing before you are ready to go to sleep.
Tip #4 – Be sure to keep your sleep environment comfortable.
Sleep requires a down-regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is difficult if our environment is detrimental to restfulness. If your room is too cold, too hot, noisy, odorous, and messy, you need to make changes to create a more restful, relaxing and comfortable space.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP WITH YOUR SLEEP
If you would like to learn more about how CBT can help combat insomnia, Online-Therapy.com is the place to be. When you sign up to work with Online-Therapy.com you get to choose a therapist you feel comfortable with, and you can develop a personalized approach that supports your needs to bring about the changes you desire.
At Online-Therapy.com we offer an integrated approach to your mental health and wellness. Our platform includes regular sessions with a therapist via phone, text chat or video, worksheet support, journaling, and yoga.
We’re here to help you get happier NOW!
Your therapist is ready to start the journey with you today. So what are you waiting for?