What is insomnia? Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep that persists for some time and interferes with daily functioning. Insomnia can co-exist with other medical and emotional problems. By the time a person seeks treatment from a psychologist they typically feel like they are at the mercy of insomnia. The more they try to sleep, the harder it becomes. They might even try to compensate for lost sleep by sleeping in on weekends or napping. Coffee and or other stimulants might be trusted friends. They might have other habits like watching television in bed and or spending long periods in bed even though they can’t sleep. They might have trouble quieting their minds when it is time to sleep. Over time, life has become smaller, less enjoyable, and the person may even be sad or depressed.
The right treatment can help a person overcome insomnia and live the life they want to live. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a model of therapy in which a trained therapist helps a person understand and then change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to achieve therapeutic goals. Research by psychologists has determined that cognitive behavioral therapy, done well, works to treat insomnia; it is evidence-based. Compared to some other forms of psychological treatment that might be more confined to talking in the therapy room, it is an “active” treatment. People who engage in cognitive behavioral therapy complete “homework” tasks designed to apply what they learn in the therapy office to their lives, where real change happens. Research suggests that people who actively participate, experience improvement in sleep quality and duration. As they begin to feel more control over insomnia, overall quality of life can increase. I have specialized training in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and welcome you to contact me to discuss whether this treatment is right for you.
What about medication? Some people who have insomnia are prescribed medications to help them sleep. These medications can help to promote sleep, especially in the short-term. However, research suggests, for long term relief from insomnia, it is important to change the way one thinks, feels, and behaves in life. In other words, insomnia often comes back after the medications are stopped unless a person has learned new skills and ways of thinking through cognitive behavioral therapy. So, research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy either in combination with medication treatment or alone, leads to more long-lasting benefits than medication alone. Because of this, if you choose to take medications while engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy with me, I will gladly work with your prescribing physician to coordinate care with your permission.
If you elect to participate in CBT for insomnia, please complete a sleep diary daily and bring it to your sessions. Please remember to complete the sleep diary for an entire week prior to your intake session. This helps me assess your patterns of sleep before and during therapy.