• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Insomnia

    By Linda Ritchie, PhD

    Losing sleep has some immediate consequences that are obvious and unpleasant, such as irritability, difficulty in focusing and cognitive performance. A lack of sleep can also have injurious or fatal consequences. According to one survey conduced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than one-third of U.S. drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel.

    Some people think they are too busy to bother with sleep. Other people find that they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep long enough to feel rested. This is insomnia, a common sleep disorder.

    Common Symptoms of Insomnia

    Difficulty falling asleep at night

    Waking up during the night and having trouble going back to sleep

    Waking up too early

    Feeling tired upon waking

    Daytime irritability

    There can be numerous causes of insomnia but stress appears to be a primary contributor for many people. Concerns about work, school, health, or family can keep your mind active at all hours of the night, causing you to be unable to relax. Anxiety can also often cause disruptions in sleep. If you are experiencing severe anxiety, you could have an anxiety disorder that would need to be assessed first before tackling your sleep problems. The same is true if you are suffering from depression.

    Insomnia can also be caused by a variety of medical conditions, particularly those that cause physical pain like fibromyalgia and arthritis. Additionally, many prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medications can interfere with sleep.

    A qualified health care provider can assess whether medical problems, medications, underlying sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea), depression or anxiety may be contributing to insomnia.

    Many people resort to the use of sleeping pills to treat their insomnia. While sleeping pills may be useful for treatment of insomnia, there may be side effects, which make finding an alternative a better option.

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has consistently proven to be one of the most effective first-line treatments for chronic insomnia. It can improve sleep in 75-80% of insomnia patients and eliminates the need for sleeping medication use in almost half of patients.

    Three major studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Archives of Internal Medicine documented the effectiveness of CBT in the treatment of sleep problems and insomnia. CBT also has no side effects and maintains improvements in sleep the long-term.