When should you seek professional help for insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder. The main characteristics include difficulty falling and staying asleep, waking up at night, not falling back asleep, and waking up too early. There are many different causes of insomnia. The good news is that insomnia is very treatable. If you believe that your lack of sleep affects your daily functioning, you should seek professional help. This will likely include blood work and other tests. If results are normal, a sleep study will likely be recommended. If everything appears to be as expected, then the focus should be treating insomnia. First-line therapy for insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia or CBT-I. CBT-I is a program specifically tailored to the patient in order to help change negative thoughts and anxiety that prevent you from sleeping. It also helps change behaviors and bad sleep habits that inhibit your ability to fall asleep.
Sleep Study Methods
CBT-I is made up of various techniques. An excellent way to start is to have a detailed sleep diary for 1-2 weeks to determine the best treatment options. These techniques are all related to one another. CBT-I is made up of the following methods:
- stimulus control therapy
- sleep restriction
- sleep hygiene
- sleep environment
- relaxation training
Stimulus Control Therapy
The goal for this type of therapy is to avoid anything that will cause your mind to resist sleep. If your mind is too engaged in some activity, it will not be ready to relax and fall asleep. It would be best if you avoid electronics before bed, including cell phones, tablets, TV, and other electronic activities. Reading can also sometimes cause the mind to be too active before bed. It would help if you remove any clocks in the room that are visible from your bed.
This type of therapy aims to consolidate your sleep and associate your bed with sleep. So, you cannot be awake and in bed. Sounds simple, right? But, this can be very difficult. You need to have a consistent bedtime and wake time. You cannot take naps during the day; naps will take away from your sleep time at night. Use the bed only for sleep and sex. If you are awake in the middle of the night for about 20 minutes, you have to get out of bed without looking at the clock and only return to be when you are feeling sleepy. As soon as you get back into bed, your mind might start to race again. If this happens, you have to get out of bed again. This isn’t easy to do, but it does work. Part of this technique also includes reducing the number of hours you spend in bed to make you more tired for the following night. If done correctly, your pressure to sleep will be high enough so that you fall asleep fast and wake up less. As your sleep is more consolidated throughout the night, you can gradually increase your total sleep time or the number of hours you spend in bed.
This therapy deals with changing habits to help promote sleep. Sleep hygiene includes avoiding smoking, alcohol, caffeine too late in the day, etc. Increasing physical activity during the day will help sleep at night. Sometimes have a relaxing routine before bed helps your mind and body get ready for sleep.
Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet helps promote sleep. Again, no TV in the room, making sure a clock is not visible from your bed is good. You need to make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable. Another hard one but sleeping with your pet can disrupt your sleep.
This technique involves calming your mind and body. Meditation, imagery, muscle relaxation, and others are included in this technique. You often hear people say they “try to sleep.” You should never try to fall asleep; this should be a natural and automatic process. You need to let go of the worry and anxiety about lack of sleep and how it will affect your sleep and the next day. The less your worry about your sleep, the more sleep you get.
This method involves using biological signs like your heart rate and muscle tension to help you sleep. Biofeedback devices record daily patterns that can help your specialist determine how to best help you.
Ultimately, the most effective treatment approach may combine several of these methods. Along with treatment, both medical and psychiatric conditions if present. It is essential to see a specialist who practices CBT-I so treatment can be tailored specifically to your needs. Pharmacological therapy is also sometimes used to treat insomnia. This therapy can be useful in the short term but is typically not recommended for the long term.
I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to comment or leave a question. I hope you have a good night’s sleep!
And contact us for any of your sleep study needs.
-Twilight Sleep Doc