Insomnia Treatment: Mind
Changing sleep habits and treating underlying conditions that cause insomnia can restore restful sleep for many people. If such measures don't work, your doctor may recommend medications to help with relaxation and sleep. While medicines are effective, experts do not deny the effectiveness of behavior approaches in managing insomnia. It has been found that behavioral treatment are equally or more effective than sleep medications. Behavior therapies are recommended as the first line of treatment for insomnia.
Behavioral treatments entail teaching you new sleep behaviors as well as ways to make your environment more conducive for sleep.
Behavior therapies include:
- Sleep hygiene education - This involves correcting basic lifestyle habits that influence sleep, such as smoking and failing to exercise regularly. It also includes tips that help you sleep better, such as listening to soft music and reading.
- Relaxation techniques - Several studies have proven that relaxation is very effective for people with insomnia. Relaxation studies such as progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback and breathing exercises are ways to lessen anxiety at bedtime. These techniques help you control your breathing, heart rate, muscle tension and mood.
- Cognitive therapy - This treatment approach has emerged as an effective alternative to sleeping pills, even for people with persistent sleep problems. This method helps you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake by replacing worries about not sleeping with more positive thoughts. Cognitive therapy can be done through one-on-one counseling or in group sessions.
- 'Stimulus control' - This means limiting the time you spend awake in bed by disassociating negative thoughts you attach to your bed and bedroom environment. You may be coached that bed should only be associated with sleep or sex.
- Sleep restriction - The purposes of this method is to decrease the time you spend in bed. The partial sleep deprivation will make you more tired the next night. Your time in bed will be gradually increased as your sleep improves.
Treating insomnia may require combining a number of behavioral treatment methods. The downside of behavioral therapy is that it requires consistent practice and some may not cause you to initially lose sleep. Nevertheless, this drug-free approach has been proven to restore sleep of many insomnia sufferers.