Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, also known as CBT-I, is a technique commonly used for treating insomnia that incorporates behavioral approaches, either without medication or in conjunction with medication.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder experienced by millions of people worldwide. People suffering with insomnia find it difficult to either fall asleep, stay asleep, or to get sufficient good-quality sleep. Insomnia typically leads to lethargy, daytime sleepiness, and a general feeling of being both physically and mentally unwell.
The aim of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia - CBT-I is to improve behaviors and sleep habits by firstly identifying, and then changing the thought patterns and behaviors that affect a person’s ability to sleep or to sleep well.
Before a patient’s insomnia can be treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia CBT-I, however, the underlying causes of the insomnia must be identified. People unfortunate enough to experience insomnia should have their sleep patterns evaluated in order to determine all possible factors that could be affecting their ability to sleep. This can be done privately at home, and would involve keeping a journal or sleep diary for at least two weeks. Maintaining a regular journal can be very helpful in identifying the stress, habits, thoughts, or behavior that may be contributing to the person’s insomnia.
Once the underlying causes and factors contributing to the insomnia have been identified, then the person can start taking positive steps towards achieving better sleep. In CBT-I Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia these steps include the control of stimulus, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, cognitive therapy, and relaxation training. In addition, some sleep specialists also recommend biofeedback. It’s been found that CBT-I is an effective form of treatment for insomnia, including insomnia caused by or related to mood disorders. Interestingly, people suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have also shown improvement.
The aim of stimulus control is to associate our bed with sleeping only, and to limit its association with stimulating activities. People who suffer from insomnia are advised to follow the following tips –
‘Sleep Hygiene’ is a term used for controlling a person’s behaviors and environment that precede sleep. This process means limiting substances within 4 to 6 hours of going to bed – substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, that are known to interfere with proper sleep. It may be that a light bedtime snack of peanut butter or milk is recommended.
Very important also for the person suffering from insomnia is the environment in which they sleep, and this includes the environment that directly precedes sleep. It’s important that insomniacs engage in relaxing activities prior to going to sleep, such as listening to calming music, reading, taking a bath, writing, and so on. Stimulating activity, such as being around bright lights, using a computer, and watching television, should be avoided at all costs.
When it comes to CBT-I, sleep restriction is a fairly controversial step because it initially involves restricting sleep. Restricting sleep sounds counterintuitive, but it is, in fact, an effective and significant component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Sleep restriction as a treatment for insomnia revolves around controlling time in bed (TIB): it’s based on the person’s sleep efficiency so that the homeostatic drive can be restored to their sleep. Depending on the person’s initial sleep efficiency this process could take several weeks or months to complete. During the first week or two daytime sleepiness will be a side-effect, so people who cannot be sleep deprived for various reasons, such as operating heavy machinery, should not undergo this process.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.