Lots of us struggle with insomnia and, in Australia, approximately 90 per cent of people who visit their GP leave with a prescription for sleeping pills. But should this always be the solution? Are sleeping pills the most effective way to handle sleep deprivation?
Those of us who suffer from chronic insomnia have sleeplessness for countless months. This lack of sleep can be a very frustrating and irritating issue. We will try anything to have a good night’s sleep. However, would you try a non-drug treatment?
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a treatment that challenges people to think about their attitudes and behaviours about sleep. A recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine has provided some very persuasive information about how effective it is. The study of over 1000 patients with chronic insomnia and no other issues related to sleep deprivation provided astounding results about the effectiveness of this therapy.
Insofar, people who received CBT fell asleep 20 minutes faster and lay awake in bed 30 minutes less than those who did not receive treatment. According to the study, these sleep improvements are similar to those who take popular sleeping pills. So would you rather pop a pill or try CBT?
CBT actually has longer-term psychological benefits that sleeping pills do not provide. For instance, when people stop taking sleeping pills their sleep problems return, whereas, those who undergo CBT treatment maintain their improved sleep patterns for nearly two years according to this study.
Apparently many peoples do not know to ask for CBT nor do doctors suggest it. The awareness concerning the treatment is very low despite its effectiveness.
So how does it work?
CBT involves stimulus control. Patients are advised to get out of bed if they spend more than 15 minutes trying to fall asleep. This is meant to train people that the bed is is for sleeping, not just laying down. CBT’s aim is to change sleep habits and scheduling, including misconceptions of sleep and insomnia. For instance, chronic insomnia affects one in 10 people yet nearly 1/3 of the population is unhappy with the amount of sleep they are getting. We are constantly told that we need eight hours of sleep per night to be rested but do we really? We are all different.
CBT isn’t easy. It requires regular check-ups with your clinician to help assess your sleep patterns and requires you to complete a sleep diary. Other CBT techniques include sleep hygiene, which means basic lifestyle habits such as quitting smoking or drinking caffeine late in the day, sleep environment improvements or relaxation training. Overall, CBT can be a great alternative if you’re worried about becoming dependent on sleep medications. It addresses the underlying problems with CBT rather than just immediate relief.
Here are 5 other things you can do for a better night’s sleep
- Leave the bedroom if you are unable to sleep for 15 minutes
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed
- Avoid daytime naps
- Remove all clocks from sight
- Relax your body and brain with meditation mindfulness or breathing exercises
Tell us, would you consider CBT for your sleep problems? Have you ever considered a psychological approach instead of taking sleeping pills?