Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, is a common sleep disorder experienced by 10% of the world’s population. While therapy may not be the first solution that comes to mind for a sleep disorder, there are many therapeutic techniques that significantly improve a person’s ability to get quality, satisfying sleep. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often recommended for those who struggle with insomnia. In fact, it’s such a common recommendation that therapists developed a specific form of CBT that’s used for insomnia, and it’s called CBT-I. You can learn more about what CBT is and the many benefits of this condition in this blog.
What Is CBT-I & How Does It Work?
CBT is a therapy approach that explores the ways that thoughts, feelings, and actions interact with each other and impact our experiences. CBT-I explores how thinking, feeling, and acting impacts our ability to receive satisfying sleep. You’ll start by working with a therapist to identify thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are impacting sleep. Your therapist will challenge beliefs and feelings related to sleep to help you identify misconceptions and achieve a greater sense of clarity related to sleep. They may also work with you on behavioral changes that will improve sleep.
What Happens During CBT-I Therapy Sessions?
The therapist and client develop a plan for CBT-I sessions to improve sleep. These sessions may include cognitive, emotional, and behavioral interventions. Some of the common CBT-I strategies include:
- Cognitive restructuring – worrying about falling asleep, believing you can’t fall asleep, and feeling concerned you’ll wake up at night can all impact your ability to sleep soundly. Cognitive restructuring focuses on changing these thoughts and beliefs in order to improve sleep.
- Relaxation techniques – there are numerous relaxation techniques that may be utilized to improve sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation is a popular option. It involves tensing and relaxing groups of muscles. Meditation is another relaxation technique that can be used to improve sleep.
- Sleep restriction – when people with insomnia lay in bed awake, they associate their beds with sleeplessness. By reducing the amount of time in bed to match the time actually sleeping, a person improves their ability to sleep soundly. If a person is in bed for nine hours, but they only sleep for five, they can adjust their sleep schedule, so they only spend about five or six total hours in bed. As they begin sleeping more soundly within the restricted period, the amount of time in bed can be increased.
- Stimulus control – removing lights, sounds, movements, and other possible contributors to insomnia. By controlling stimuli when you go to sleep, you can reclaim your bedroom as a restful and relaxing space.
As you practice these CBT-I techniques with your therapist, they will give you homework that challenges you to utilize these techniques at home to improve the quality of sleep. After trying a specific approach, you’ll report back, discuss the outcomes, and adjust the plan as needed to ensure you achieve your desired results.
Some Additional Sleeping Tips for People Struggling with Insomnia
Before you even begin your CBT-I sessions, consider the following simple tips to improve sleep:
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day to train your body to fall asleep more easily.
- Stick to a regular routine each night. It should include putting your phone down, turning off the TV, and relaxing. Listening to soft music or reading can be beneficial.
- Increase exercise. Adding more exercise into your daily routine can increase the sense of tiredness at night and make it easier to fall asleep.
- Journal before bed. This alleviates racing thoughts and heightened emotions that keep people up at night.
- Practice box breathing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for a count of five, breath out for a count of five, hold for a count of five, and repeat.
Schedule a CBT-I Session
When you’re ready to start sleeping better, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Center for CBT in New York City. Our knowledgeable therapists have experience using all forms of CBT, including CBT-I, and they would love to work with you. You can get in contact with us by phone at (917) 596-8955 or using our online scheduling request form.