Most people have insomnia at some point in their lives. Usually it happens during times of stress and goes away in a few days or weeks without treatment. Professional help is needed when insomnia lasts for months or even years. Untreated insomnia causes daytime functioning problems such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty with concentration and memory. Long-term, chronic insomnia may also be associated with depression, drug and alcohol use, and heart disease.
Insomnia can take several forms and have many causes, but it always has certain characteristics. Insomnia comes in four basic categories:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking up too early
- Poor quality sleep
Insomnia reduces the overall quality of life. Next day effects may include:
- Fatigue or Malaise
- Daytime Sleepiness
- Attention, Concentration or Memory Impairment
- Poor work performance
- Worries about sleep
With the advancement of the sleep research field, treatment options are becoming more effective and attractive. The traditional approach is to use sleep medications to treat insomnia. Medications have an important role in the management of insomnia, but they often provide only a temporary fix and come with side effects and other potential complications. Clinical studies show Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is as effective as medication in the short-term and more effective in the long-term for persistent or chronic insomnia.
Behavioral Sleep Medicine Treatments for Adult Insomnia
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a standard treatment for chronic insomnia according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. CBT usually combines several clinically proven interventions tailored to each patients particular needs. Possible interventions include: stimulus control therapy, sleep restriction therapy, relaxation training, cognitive therapy, bright light therapy, sleep hygiene education and other interventions
Treatment for insomnia starts with a proper diagnosis. Behavioral Sleep professionals determine what is disrupting sleep through in-depth interviewing and medical or psychological tests. A sleep diary completed at home for 1-2 weeks is often part of the evaluation. A Behavioral Sleep professional uses the tests to form a two-part strategy combining talk therapy and lifestyle changes.
Clinicians use a series of strategies in talk therapy to break the cycle of insomnia and help patients recognize and change patterns of thoughts and behaviors that can contribute to sleeping problems. Treatment also focuses on eliminating problem behaviors and environmental influences. For instance, if a patient reports working on email before bedtime, the therapist will encourage them to find another less stimulating routine.
Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy of Insomnia
- Treatment is often short-term (often 4 or 5 sessions)
- Minimal side effect profile
- Research has shown improvements in sleep are as good and in some case better than the best sleeping pills
- Treatment benefits are long lasting
- Can be successfully used to treat insomnia occurring with many other medical or psychiatric disorders