(MayoClinic.com) Insomnia is a common problem characterized by trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting restful sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is an effective insomnia treatment for chronic sleep problems.
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, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
The cognitive side of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia teaches you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. The behavioral part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps you develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia contains one or more of the following elements:
The most effective treatment approach may combine several of these methods.Cognitive behavioral therapy vs. pills
Some newer sleeping medications have been approved for long-term use. But they may not be the best long-term insomnia treatment.
Sleep medications can be a very effective short-term treatment — for example, they can provide immediate relief during a period of high stress or grief.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may be a good treatment choice if you have long-term sleep problems. You may want to try it if you're worried about becoming dependent on sleep medications, if medications aren't effective or if they cause bothersome side effects.
Unlike pills, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia addresses the underlying causes of insomnia rather than just relieving symptoms. But it takes time — and effort — to make it work. In some cases, a combination of sleep medication and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may be the best approach.Insomnia and other disorders
Insomnia is linked to a number of physical and mental health disorders and substance abuse. Ongoing lack of sleep increases your risk of illness and infection, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and chronic pain. If you have a condition that's linked to insomnia, it needs to be addressed along with sleep problems.Finding help
There are a limited number of certified Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialists, and you may not live near a practitioner. You may have to do some searching to find a trained practitioner and a treatment schedule and type that fit your needs. Here are two places to look:
The type of treatment — such as group vs. individual — and frequency of sessions can vary, depending on who you see. You may need as few as two sessions or as many as eight or more sessions, depending on your sleep expert, the program and your progress.
When calling to set up an appointment, ask the practitioner about his or her approach and what to expect. It's also a good idea to check ahead of time whether your health insurance will cover the type of treatment you need.
They can't replace meeting with a sleep specialist in person, but you may benefit from books, CDs or websites on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and insomnia.
They can't provide the same services as sleep specialists, but licensed psychological counselors (psychotherapists) can offer cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to ease psychological concerns linked to sleep problems.Who can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia?
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can benefit nearly anyone with sleep problems. The therapy can help older adults who have been taking sleep medications for years, people with physical problems such as chronic pain and those with primary insomnia, a condition that exists in its own right. What's more, the effects seem to last. There is no evidence that the therapy has negative side effects.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia requires steady practice, and some approaches may cause you to lose sleep at first. Stick with it, and you're likely to see lasting results.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed||Top Searches|
Want to know more about this article or other health related issues? Ask your question and we'll post some each week for CNN.com reader to discuss or for our experts to weight in.