Sleep Disorders: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment

Dr. David L. Kupfer, Ph.D.

A wide variety of psychological and medical conditions can disturb your sleep. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you cope with many of these conditions. Chronic pain, medical disorders, anxiety, and depression can all interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. A careful medical evaluation should take place to try to identify any medical conditions that might be contributing to a sleep problem. These might include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, night sweats, or a myriad of other problems that can be diagnosed and treated by a sleep specialist.

Cognitive therapy can help you identify and alter specific beliefs and patterns of thinking that can lead to anxiety at bedtime. Learning to eliminate stress-producing cognitive styles and mastering more healthy beliefs can leave you calm in time to get to sleep. People who are perfectionists or fearful of disappointing others can end up with lingering anxiety or depression that interferes with sleep.

Behavior therapists can also help you learn and use self-relaxation techniques that can result in a pleasant state of relaxation that can ease you into sleep. These techniques can resemble meditation, making use of your imagination to help you calm both body and mind.

Stimulus control is another behavioral measure that can help people sleep more reliably. This refers to strengthening the connection between your bedroom and sleep, while weakening the connection between the bedroom and stress. With this in mind, you might be guided to stop doing paperwork in the bedroom, and only spending time in the bedroom when you are tired or relaxed enough to be ready to fall asleep.

Lifestyle planning can also aid those with disturbed sleep patterns. Keeping a behavioral diary for a few days can help you identify aspects of your daily lifestyle that might be interfering with good sleep. Changing your eating, exercise, and work habits can guarantee that you will be mentally and physically ready for sleep at a bedtime that suits you.

Finally, it can be helpful to develop a regular, relaxing ritual, specifically tailored to your personal needs, to use before you go to bed. This ritual will soon be a reassuring signal that you are about to get a good night’s rest.