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Insomnia: Defining the Problem

Sleep is key to a high quality of life. Without a good night’s sleep, you feel fatigued, unable to focus and like you aren’t living to the fullest. Sleep affects every part of your health from mental to physical. If you have insomnia, you probably feel like you are being robbed of a healthy life.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep and stay asleep, usually affecting their daily function. Insomnia is its own disorder but is typically comorbid with another illness or injury.

What are the symptoms of Insomnia?

Some of the symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Lying awake for long periods
  • Low sleep efficiency
  • Waking up and being unable to fall back asleep
  • Fragmented sleeping patterns
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Lack of focus
  • Decreased workplace performance

Dealing with insomnia is difficult and can feel isolating; however, it’s a problem across the country. The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that approximately 25 percent of Americans experience acute insomnia every year. Another study conducted by the Sleep Research Society stated that the U.S. lost an estimated $63 billion in workplace performance due to insomnia in 2011.

Loss of sleep is a problem in America, and it costs us significantly.

How Can You Overcome Insomnia?

Luckily, there have been significant advancements in insomnia treatment and several options to help you achieve a great night’s sleep.

One solution you may have heard of is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI). CBTI is a proven, non-medicated method of treatment that works on helping a patient’s behavior and mindset towards sleep. There are several components to CBTI, so let’s go over it piece by piece to see if it’s the right treatment for you.

CBTI: How It Works

Whether you do CBTI with a sleep professional in person or online with a service like Somly, you will want to know what is required of you before getting started. CBTI is behavioral and psychoeducational therapy that helps insomnia patients realign the relationship between their bed and a good night’s sleep. It’s all about understanding any behaviors or thought processes you may have that are causing poor sleep and changing them.

Cognitive Therapy

Most CBTI treatment includes meeting with a sleep professional for around six hours over four to six weeks. You will talk through your sleeping patterns, thought processes before sleep, your bedtime routine and any strategies they may have for you. You will also learn about sleep hygiene and what bad habits may be affecting you.

A Sleep Journal

Most CBTI starts with some form of sleep journal. You will receive a journal, physical or digital, that will help you see where you are at in your sleep health. Taking notes for a few weeks is a standard procedure to analyze and look for improvement in sleep. You will need to record a few metrics, such as:

  • Hours in bed
  • Lights out time
  • Estimated time asleep
  • Substance intake before bed- Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol

Keeping an accurate and detailed sleep journal is important in the diagnosis and therapy moving forward.

Sleep Restriction Therapy

After the sleep care professional has a better understanding of your sleep habits and behaviors, they will start with sleep restriction therapy (SRT). SRT restricts the amount of time you can be in bed to increase their sleeping efficiency. If you only sleep around 4.5 hours, you may be restricted to 5 hours in bed a night. This therapy helps you to build your sleep efficiency and lower the amount of time you are awake in bed. The restriction gradually lessens as the treatment progresses to help set the body’s circadian rhythm and raise sleep efficiency.

Other restrictions include:

  • Removal from the bedroom after 15-20 minutes of unsuccessful sleep
  • Set wake-up and bedtimes
  • Only allowing the bedroom space to be used for sleep and intimacy.

Mental Exercises and Relaxation Training

During your time in cognitive therapy, you will practice some mental exercises and physical relaxation techniques you can go through before falling asleep. Mental exercises you will practice may include math or word games or visualizing certain scenes and objects to keep from overthinking about sleep.

Bedroom Environment Fortification

The bedroom environment is key to getting an excellent night’s sleep. The amount of light, temperature and noise level are all necessary to check before sleeping. Your sleep care professional will go over more in-depth and personalized steps to take to increase your chance for successful sleep.

Other Considerations

Diet and exercise are important factors to sleep. Your sleep specialist may prescribe you to 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise to help exhaust the body by bedtime. Restrictions on food and beverages may be placed to help your body feel more tired before bed.

How Effective is CBT for Insomnia?

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is based on empirical evidence and has been found to be beneficial. BMC Family Practice found CBTI to be more effective than medication six months or more after the therapy was completed.

CBTI could be the first step towards getting a good night’s sleep and feeling refreshed and energized again. It is an effective treatment and can help you sleep in the long-term. If you don’t know where to start, check out Somly’s program here to see if we are the solution for you.

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