Recent research shows that one of the most effective cures for insomnia is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT. It was initially pioneered by two leading researchers, Albert Ellis and Aaron beck throughout the late 60's and early 70's as a cure for depression. But further research has shown that the approach can also be highly effective as a treatment for other psychological disorders such as anxiety, stress and insomnia. |
With nearly 10% of adults experiencing some form of insomnia or sleep deprivation throughout their lives - it is a huge problem which is rarely discussed in public.
Lack of sleep can lead to side effects such as a constant "hung over" feeling (without any alcohol intake) to stress and depression and even physical danger from sleep driving or accidents whilst fatigued.
Whilst there are medicines to treat insomnia, many people experience long term side effects or find they only treat the condition temporarily. The greatest benefit of using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as a cure for insomnia is that it treats the cause of the insomnia itself and not just the symptoms as medication does.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works by helping to reduce the arousal associated with stressors in the brain. This over arousal (or a too addictive awake system in the brain) is the main cause of most sleep issues and a key reason for insomnia. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helps reduce arousal through positive thinking - helping sufferers from banishing negative thoughts associated with the condition.
The key principle behind Cognitive Behaviour Therapy working when tackling sleep deprivation and insomnia is in reducing worry, anxiety and fear that one won't sleep by providing "real" accurate information about sleep. Using real examples - we can now look at how you could use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to challenge self deprecating thoughts that fuel insomnia.
Some worries which seem to regularly re-occur with insomniacs are as follows, along with the sort of suggested method of turning these thoughts around:
1." I'm not getting enough sleep" But you maybe getting more sleep than you think, by misconceiving the lighter stages of sleep as wakefulness. Or in understanding that you may need less sleep than you thought - can help reduce anxiety about not getting enough sleep and paradoxically lead to being able to sleep better.
FACT - The minimum amount of sleep people need to maintain alertness is 5.5 hours. (You might not feel fully refreshed but it is adequate for normal functioning)
2. "I'm never going to get to sleep - how will I cope with tomorrow" Cognitive Behaviour Therapy techniques can help people to challenge these negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
So with the above example, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy teaches you to change this thought to "I'm not sleeping well tonight, but I've had other nights like this and I did function reasonably well at work anyway".
3. "I've been lying here for ages unable to sleep" If you are spending 8 hours in bed, but need only 6.5 hours sleep - cut your time in bed to 7 hours. This will reduce the amount of time you experience the unpleasant, stressful feeling of being in bed awake at night.
4. "I should be able to sleep well every night like a normal person" Understand that this is a fairly unrealistic statement. Lots of people struggle to sleep from time to time. Think "I will be able to sleep with practice".
5. "It's the same every single night, another night of sleepless misery" Isn't this a slight exaggeration - not every night will be exactly the same. Some nights don't you sleep better than others?
6. "If I don't get some sleep I'll blow my presentation tomorrow and jeopardise my job" This is catastrophizing at its worst. You'll be able to get through that big presentation even if you're tired. You're still resting even if you're not asleep.
7. "It's going to take me at least 2.5 hours to get to sleep tonight" Stop "fortune telling"! You don't know what will happen tonight. You could get to sleep quickly if you've used the techniques of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
8. "I'm never going to be able to sleep well - it's out of my control" This feeling of hopelessness has to stop. You can cure your insomnia. Stop focussing on the negatives and focus on being positive - "you can beat insomnia"
There are many more examples but Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as you can now see is about replacing those self defeating thoughts. If you are suffering from insomnia try it yourself.
Write a list of negative thoughts you have had about your lack of sleep - now see if you can come up with a positive way of disputing this thinking. It's easier than people think.
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