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Can Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Cure Insomnia?

Insomnia is a serious condition for some people. You need to sleep between six and eight hours a night; any less and you risk the weakening of brain functions. You may find it hard to concentrate, have memory lapses and discover that your creative abilities are impaired.

The common treatment for insomnia is sleeping pills. While pills do send you to sleep, they have side effects, can be addictive and you may wake up in the morning feeling un-refreshed.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (or CBT for short) has been every effective in helping insomniacs, without any of the downsides of sleeping pills.

The National Institute of Health in the USA, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK, have both recommended CBT for a number of mental conditions, including insomnia.

How Cognitive Behaviour Therapy works

CBT looks at the fundamental reasons you cannot sleep. It usually takes the form of a few weekly sessions with a therapist, who works with you to formulate strategies and techniques to practise outside of the CBT session.

One method is to first encourage less sleep, which at first may seem counterintuitive. Clients go to bed much later than usual and are discouraged from napping in the day. The object of this is to make the person sleep deprived and so tired that they easily go to sleep when going to bed at their usual time.

Often, you cannot sleep because negativities, worries, and disturbing thoughts keep you awake. In the CBT process, you learn how to control or eliminate these negative thoughts.

CBT also looks at sleep hygiene, which is a list of things that you should or should not do in order to sleep. This includes not drinking caffeine drinks late at night, keeping the bedroom cool and dark, avoiding alcohol and tobacco near bedtime, removing clutter, and choosing the right mattress to suit your body.

Patients keep a journal that, as well as listing sleep patterns, is used to jot down any thoughts or reflections that come to mind. Relaxation techniques are taught, including meditation, mindfulness and muscle relaxation.

CBT is not easy. The patient does not passively listen to the therapist; instead, the patient and the therapist work together to formulate strategies, and a lot of effort is required to implement them.

Most people find that only six weeks of CBT therapy are needed to help insomnia.

It's time to sleep well