What are sleep disorders and insomnia?

Sleep disorders are common to the general population and can have a variety of effects on individual’s mood, performance, and health. Insomnia is the perception of poor quality sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently with difficulty returning to sleep, and/or early morning rising. If you suffer from sleep disorders you may be experiencing:

  • Sleep for short periods of time
  • Awake feeling unrested
  • Stay awake for much of the night
  • Wake too early

Other signs of sleep disorders include:

  • Falling asleep while driving
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
  • Decreased performance in work/school settings
  • Daytime sleepiness, irritability, anxiety and depression
  • Worry thoughts about sleep “I’ll never fall asleep and tomorrow I’ll be unable to function”
  • Frequent naps
  • Disruptive sleep/wake schedule

What is the treatment for insomnia?

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help with chronic and acute sleep disorders. Chronic sleep disorders typically persist for one month or longer. Use of substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other substances may all complicate the course and treatment of sleep disorders. Treatment of the underlying cause (i.e. stress, mood disorder) may resolve or improve sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy targets thoughts and actions that disrupt sleep. Clients learn and practice sleep hygiene, stimulus control, sleep scheduling, and learn strategies to increase the sleep drive. Clients also learn how to control their breathing, and decrease muscle tension and practices these techniques apart from a sleep routine. Treatment is designed to target sleep anxiety through helping people identify, challenge, and replace negative, inaccurate sleep thoughts with accurate and positive thoughts “I am not falling asleep, but I have had many other nights such as this and functioned reasonably well.”

CBT has been found to be successful in adults with primary insomnia and with symptoms of insomnia secondary to other mood disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety disorders). CBT has been proven to improve sleep quality, decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, decrease waking after sleep onset, and reduced medication use.

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