What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?

Living with chronic insomnia is no fun. A lack of sleep can cause all kinds of problems and if left untreated it can even seriously damage your health.

As sleep medicine is taken more seriously these days newer treatments for chronic insomnia that designed to work for good rather than just provide a fast fix are emerging. One of those is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

A course of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia provides a very structured program that helps those with chronic insomnia identify the behaviors or emotional “triggers” that are causing their insomnia. Insomnia is not an illness or disease in its own right and the therapy identifies and deals with the real underlying cause.

The cognitive part of the name refers to the process of identifying the problems that are causing the chronic lack of sleep while the behavioral part refers to the correction of them. CBT, as it is commonly called, is not an overnight fix, the treatment usually takes a number of weeks, but many people are finding that in the long term for insomnia it is very effective.

How CBT for Insomnia Works

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia has several different elements involved in a basic course of treatment. These include:

  • Basic Sleep Education – In order for the patient to really make the changes they need to combat insomnia doctors feel that it is essential that they understand the basic facts about sleep and learning those is a first step in the CBT treatment.
    Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy sessions help the patient address worries and concerns that may be keeping them up at night without their even realizing it.
    Keeping a Sleep Diary – So that the doctor providing the cognitive behavioral therapy can best understand a patient’s unique insomnia problems he will have the patient keep a sleep diary
    Improving Sleep Hygiene – This portion involves changing bad habits that might be affecting sleep such as consuming too much caffeine, not having a set bedtime or eating too late at night.
    Sleep Restriction – Some people try to solve their insomnia problems by going to bed a great deal earlier or spending more time in bed. This can simply lead to more time spent worrying about not being able to sleep! Sleep restriction sets guidelines for the amount of time a patient spends in bed as well as set bedtimes.
    Relaxation Training – Learning to relax naturally is a large part of combating insomnia. Relaxation techniques used include meditation, hypnosis, and muscle relaxation techniques.
    Sleep Aids – Patients are assisted in finding sleep aids that will help them fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. Depending on the patient these may include anti-snoring devices, special sleep pillows, sleep diffusers and even very simple sleeping aids such as sleep masks and earplugs.

Will CBT Work for Everyone?

For most people of all ages if they have the patience and the dedication to stick to the CBT program it does provide a great deal of help for insomnia in the long run. Often the people who benefit from it the most though are those who have been masking their sleep problems for a while by using medications to induce sleep. Finding new ways to sleep better frees them from a dependence on these potentially harmful medications and set’s them up to get a better night’s sleep every night naturally.


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