Alaska Sleep Education Center

Is CBT the Answer to Your Sleepless Nights?

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Mar 25, 2021 1:48:00 AM

Woman crying on sofa during therapy session while therapist is taking notes

There are a lot of reasons that attribute to sleepless nights. We live fast-paced lives that can hinder our ability to stay disconnected from electronics close to bedtime or sometimes in the middle of the night when we cannot rest.

Insomnia affects 50-70 million Americans. And these are only the cases that are diagnosed. A lot that are diagnosed may be individuals that sleep a full seven or more hours but are not receiving a quality night sleep.

What is the difference and how does quality matter? Quality is defined as the excellence of something or a distinctive attribute. Without a complete, quality-filled seven or eight hours, the sleep is unfortunately all for nothing.

“A sleep disorder is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep, leaving you feeling exhausted or sleepy during the day. The most common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and circadian rhythm sleep disorders often triggered by shift work or jet lag.”

How to tackle anxiety depends on the underlying event. One therapy is cognitive behavioral theory (CBT) and can benefit adults in treating anxiety. Defined by Psychology Today, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that treats problems and boosts happiness by modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts resting on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior.

“CBT can guide people through the process of ‘cognitive restructuring,’ which typically involves three steps:

  1. Identifying negative thoughts;
  2. Challenging negative thoughts; and
  3. Replacing those negative thoughts with realistic thoughts.”

Some may wonder why medication cannot be prescribed versus cognitive behavioral therapy; however, prescriptions are more a short-term answer. Long-term insomnia treatment requires unraveling the underlying causes of insomnia rather than a relief of symptoms.

Recommendations stemming from cognitive behavior therapy include:

  • Changing up your sleep environment with fresh bedding, painting the walls, and adding a sound machine or essential oil diffuser.
  • Buying a new mattress that has created possible strain on your body.
  • Eliminating blue light in the bedroom by moving the cell phone away from the nightstand.
  • Meditating or relaxation training such as yoga or stretching before bedtime.
  • Journaling at bedtime to write down any worries or to-do lists keeping you from a restful night’s sleep.

Advanced practices most common with CBT are with the following methods:

  1. For people who toss and turn at night, some may dread bedtime. Stimulus control teaches that sleep and sex are the only uses for the bedroom so reading, watching tv, or scrolling on a Smartphone happens outside this space. It also helps teach after 20 minutes of tossing and turning to leave the bedroom and do something relaxing. When you are sleepy, return to bed.
  2. Sleep restriction is another common though sometimes controversial practice that has proven to be an effective treatment step in CBT for insomnia patients. Sleep restriction works by causing mild sleep deprivation to make your assigned bedtimes allow you to achieve better quality sleep. Each patient’s reaction to sleep restriction differs and is adjusted by the patient’s needs.
  3. Cognitive reframing (used at night): restating irrational or threatening thoughts in rational terms to diffuse fear or worry.
  4. Thought stopping (used during the daytime): learning to replace negative thoughts about sleep with positive or productive thoughts.
  5. Process time (used in the evening): journaling thoughts/feelings and coming to a proactive step to take the next day. The following day the practice entails letting go what was written.

Impaired sleep can seriously affect your quality of life and productivity. Behavioral changes implemented under the guidance of an experienced clinician can improve sleep quality and help you feel more alert and functional on a regular basis. Sleep is a third of your life – make it count! Learn more about CBT in a blog featuring Dr. Angie Randazzo.

Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive mult-isite sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders. No other CBT sleep specialist provides care in the state of Alaska with Dr. Randazzo available to Alaska Sleep Clinic patients via telemedicine.

Dr. Angela Randazzo bio

Topics: insomnia, cbt, CPAP therapy

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