Obtaining healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits.
Your behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have major impact on your sleep. They can promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleeplessness. Your daily routines – what you eat and drink, the medications you take, how you schedule your days and how you choose to spend your evenings - can significantly impact your quality of sleep. Even a few slight adjustments can, in some cases, mean the difference between sound sleep and a restless night. Completing a two-week sleep diary can help you understand how your routines affect your sleep.
The term "sleep hygiene” refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. These habits are a cornerstone of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, the most effective long-term treatment for people with chronic insomnia. CBT can help you address the thoughts and behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well. It also includes techniques for stress reduction, relaxation and sleep schedule management.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, sometimes called CBT-I, is an effective treatment for chronic sleep problems and is usually recommended as the first line of treatment. Most cases of insomnia are related to poor sleep habits, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, chronic illness, or certain medications. Symptoms may include difficulty falling or staying asleep and not feeling well-rested. Treatment for insomnia consists of improving sleep habits (see tips above), behavior therapy, and identifying and treating underlying causes. Sleeping pills may also be used, but should be monitored for side effects.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT-I helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
How does cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia work?
The cognitive part of CBT-I teaches you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. This type of therapy can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. The behavioral part of CBT-I helps you develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. Depending on your needs, your sleep therapist may recommend some of these CBT-I techniques:
The most effective treatment approach may combine several of these methods. If you are struggling with poor sleep or insomnia, talk to your prescriber or therapist today.
Quick Sleep Tips
If you have difficulty sleeping or want to improve your sleep, try following these tips to establish healthy sleep habits. (Talk to your doctor if your sleep problem persists.):
In addition, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback may reduce tension and promote better sleep. Visualization or guided imagery, during which you hold a peaceful image in your mind before bedtime, can also be an effective path to relaxation. You can learn learn more about these techniques from your prescriber or therapist.
If you wake up at night and can't go back to sleep, remain quiet and relaxed. Even normal sleep can be punctuated by periods of restlessness or even waking. Be patient; sleep usually returns. Remember, a few nights of poor sleep do no long-term harm. Even if you toss and turn trying to get to sleep, you are probably getting more periods of sleep than you think.
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