It’s important not to let insomnia persist for too long, as it can lead to more serious issues such as depression.
For chronic insomnia, professional help may bring relief and set you on a good sleep schedule.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep.
Unlike sleeping pills, therapy may help you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
A sleep therapist will start by having you keep a detailed sleep diary for one to two weeks. The therapist will review this diary with you to determine a treatment plan.
Treatment is aimed at learning how to control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.
As a consequence, you’ll develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. Some of the specific techniques include:
• Stimulus control. This helps remove blockers that condition the mind to resist sleep.
• Sleep restriction. This treatment temporarily decreases the time you spend in bed, causing partial sleep deprivation, to make you more tired the next night. As your sleep improves, your time in bed gradually increases.
• Sleep habits. This method addresses lifestyle issues that influence sleep, such as eating habits, alcohol and tobacco use, and exercise. It also includes tips that help you sleep better, such as ways to wind down before bedtime.
• Relaxation training. Methods include meditation, imagery, and muscle relaxation.
• Biofeedback. You’ll take a biofeedback device home to record your daily patterns. This allows you to observe signs such as heart rate and muscle tension and shows you how to adjust them.
The most effective approach may combine several of these methods and others.
Like diet and exercise, good sleep depends on practicing good daily habits. Establishing new habits takes time and commitment. Pick a few key points from this newsletter and begin today.
Keep at it until your sleep improves. If you need further help, ask your primary care physician to recommend a sleep specialist. The payoff in both your physical and emotional well-being will be huge.
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