Psychotherapy for Insomnia
Are you tired of always being tired? Sleepless nights can become a very vicious cycle that has detrimental effects on daily life. How is it possible to get a good night’s rest? Psychotherapy might just have the answer, and more and more Americans are giving it a try.
Of the various types of psychotherapy available, only some are truly helpful for treating insomnia. Some of the most useful psychotherapeutic approaches include cognitive and behavior therapies.
Cognitive Approach: Relaxation Therapy for Insomnia
Since its rise in the 1950s, relaxation therapy has been one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy for treating insomnia. The focus of this approach is aimed at reducing stress and body tension. This can be achieved in a number of ways:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) for Insomnia
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) method is usually performed in a two-step process. The first step involves applying tension to specific muscle groups while inhaling. Depending on the muscle area, tension may be applied by squeezing, clenching, pressing, or bending. The tension is engaged for approximately eight seconds. The second step involves releasing the tension in the muscle upon exhaling.
While working all major muscle groups in the body, the following sequence is recommended when utilizing PMR:
- Right foot
- Right lower leg and foot
- Entire right leg
- Repeat this process on the left side of the body
- Right hand
- Right forearm and hand
- Entire right arm
- Repeat this process on the left side of the body
- Neck and shoulders
Upon completion of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) exercise, the experience of feeling the tension in the muscles melt away upon relaxation is able to produce a calm and drowsy state helping your fall asleep. It is suggested to consult a physician prior to beginning PMR exercises to ensure that you are fit for such an activity.
Guided Imagery for Insomnia
Guided Imagery is a form of relaxation therapy that encompasses reading or listening to specific scripts to produce calm and relaxing thoughts for the listener, thus encouraging a sleep-friendly environment. Guided imagery CDs and DVDs are available for purchase online and in retail stores.
Reconditioning for Insomnia
Reconditioning is the processes of changing one’s perception to ensure that he or she associates the bed with sleep. This means only using the bed and bedroom for sleep and intimacy. In conjunction with reconditioning, stimulus control therapy (SCT) is often used.
The basis behind stimulus control therapy (SCT) is for a person to only be in the bedroom and bed when he or she is sleepy.
This is generally accomplished by following a few simple rules:
- Do not take naps during the day.
- Only go to bed when sleepy.
- After 15-20 minutes of being unable to fall asleep, get up and go into another room until the feeling of sleepiness returns.
- Set a regular wake-up time every morning and stick to the routine; even if it means only getting a little bit of sleep the night before.
Behavioral Approach: Behavior Modifications for Insomnia
When insomnia begins to affect the functioning of life, changes need to be made and simple behavior therapies can help those suffering from insomnia. It is important to understand specific behaviors that can perpetuate insomnia.
Some of these behaviors include:
- Stress—As mentioned above, try progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery to reduce stress levels.
- Extreme temperatures—A room that is too hot or a room that is too cold can affect the sleep of many individuals. Making the decision to ensure a proper sleeping climate will aid in the fight against insomnia.
- A change in the surrounding environment—When away from home, try to create the feeling of home wherever you go. A simple suggestion is to take your personal pillow from home when going on overnight trips.
- Medication side effects—If the side effects of a medication cause insomnia that is not easily reversed, it is necessary to speak with the prescribing physician to determine if other options are available.
Additional behaviors that can have a strong impact on a peaceful night’s rest include:
- Worrying about sleep and expecting to have problems sleeping
- Consuming caffeine in excess
- Drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes prior to bedtime
- Taking too many naps during the afternoon or evening.
Reversing or eliminating these habits my have a profound impact on the quality of sleep.
Facts about Insomnia
More than 20 million Americans suffer from insomnia. Those who are over the age of 60 and those who suffer from depression are at higher risk. It has also been shown that women have a higher risk of suffering from insomnia than do men; and in terms of ethnicity, African Americans and those from Asian descent are less likely to suffer from insomnia.
Insomnia can be a serious condition. It not only causes a poor night’s sleep or lack thereof, but it can affect daily functioning, job performance, and the ability to deal with the stressors of day to day life. The use of psychotherapy in treating insomnia may encourage one to have an overall healthier, happier, and more productive life.
The American Insomnia Association provides additional information on insomnia and treatment options.
The Benzo Group Support website offers information and support to help overcome the dependencies on benzodiazepines, a common sleep medication.