We’re no strangers to the problem of insomnia. Sleep problems drive hundreds of people through the doors of A Goodnight Sleepstore each month in search of a cure for what ails them. For the lucky ones just suffering from worn-out-mattress syndrome, a new mattress can work wonders. But plenty of people with excellent beds struggle to find sleep each night.
An Insomnia Solution from the Pros
We often post tips to help you sleep, and sometimes those include recommendations to seek professional (and often medical) advice. This time, we’re excited to share with you a guideline from the American College of Physicians (ACP) that will give new hope to those who have yet to find an effective way to overcome chronic insomnia. When it’s time to look beyond the conditions in your bedroom, but you don’t want to rely on prescriptions, there’s another drug-free option to consider.
What is Chronic Insomnia?
Before we tell you how doctors are treating chronic insomnia, it’s important to define what it is. In general, insomnia is a lack of restful sleep that causes fatigue, poor cognitive function, mood changes, and distress that makes it difficult to get through the day. Chronic insomnia is diagnosed when these symptoms significantly impact a person and continue for at least three nights each week for at least three months, and cannot be explained by other sleep, medical, or mental disorders. Put simply, chronic insomnia is a condition in which lack of sleep happens in a consistent and life-altering way.
Between six and ten percent of adults in America are struggling with chronic insomnia, and just as many rely on sleeping pills to get the rest they need. Unfortunately, sleep medications can have unwanted side effects and aren’t recommended as a long-term solution. Tolerance can build over time, resulting in increased doses and greater risk of side effects. That’s why the ACP’s new recommendations are so exciting. They outline a new first line of defense against chronic insomnia – a form of treatment that doesn’t require medication and that has proven to be effective in both the long and the short term. This solution is called CBT-I.
CBT-I to Treat Chronic Insomnia
Those who are familiar with psychotherapy might recognize the acronym “CBT,” which stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. True to its name, CBT-I is an adaptation of that therapy specifically designed to tackle the mental and behavioral aspects of insomnia. It’s a structured, short-term course of treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to solving sleep problems. To give a patient more control over sleep, they would meet weekly with a specialized therapist to explore the thoughts and behaviors that are interfering with sleep. The CBT-I approach is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client that includes talk therapy, relaxation techniques, behavioral interventions, and education.
A Complementary Treatment
The great thing about CBT for insomnia is that it can work in tandem with just about any other treatment method out there – and is very likely to improve the results. It targets the root causes of insomnia without requiring medications. The takeaways from CBT-I go beyond better sleep to include building new skills and techniques that can evolve and be used in new ways over time. While attending weekly sessions might sound overwhelming, the treatment is accessible in a variety of convenient ways, including self-help books, in-person appointments, therapy groups, or phone or online modules.
Finding a Therapist who treats Insomnia with CBT
If CBT-I sounds like an option you’d like to pursue, you’ll have to find a specialized practitioner. You can start by searching Psychology Today for a therapist in your area who lists CBT as one of their treatment orientations and “sleep or insomnia” among the issues they treat. If that doesn’t turn up many listings, you can find certified CBT-I specialists via the American Board of Sleep Medicine or the Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine. There’s even an online program called “Sleep Healthy Using the Internet,” or SHUTi. Whatever your preference, always be sure to seek the advice of a physician or other health care professional before trying to address any health-related matter.