Insomnia is a common problem. Frequently, insomnia is related to mental health issues including anxiety and depression or physical disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious and often undiagnosed disorder. Insomnia can be a problem with someone who is mentally healthy however, but is either a life long poor sleeper, or is under a temporarily stressful time in their life. After all sleep is definitely not encouraged in our culture, and very little is done which supports proper sleep habits, and many distractions can contribute to many of us having chronically poor sleep.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a very successful treatment for insomnia which shows signs of being equal to or in some cases even more effective than medication, and does not involve sleep hygiene. This is the cognitive/behavioral treatment (CBT) of insomnia. It usually involves only about four to eight visits after the initial diagnostic visits, and can be helpful even for those who are taking medicine but are finding it to be less than totally effective.
To understand this treatment it is important to understand what it is not, and cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) of insomnia is not the same thing as using good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene is a collection of behaviors that when practiced together can greatly improve both the quantity and quality of sleep and although having good sleep hygiene can aid and work together with CBT, they are not one and the same. Sleep hygiene includes avoiding going to bed unless you are sleepy, avoiding naps, making your bedroom dark and a little bit cool, and avoiding caffeine after lunch. It is also good to exercise daily but not within a few hours of initiating sleep since exercise can energize you. It is helpful to do something to relax you before going to bed, and not to eat a big meal within three hours of going to sleep. It is also tends to help to go to bed and to wake up at roughly the same time everyday, even if you do not have to get up for work.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia has two main components, a cognitive component called Stimulus Control Therapy (SCT), and a behavioral component called Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT). During treatment special sleep diary forms are filled out every night and they are discussed with your therapist in order to determine the dosing of the two primary elements of treatment. After the baseline period then the patient and therapist work together to bring these elements together in such a way as to train oneself to get deeper and longer sleep, usually within only a couple of months or less. Once change occurs, it is usually permanent, although occasionally booster sessions are needed. Thus often in as little as 6 - 10 visits, lasting change can occur so that it can truly be said: Sleep Brings Happiness!!