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Talk Therapy for Insomniacs

Can’t fall sleep at night? Do you wake up tossing and turning with a mind that won’t shut off? You’re not alone. Sleep scientists say a large chunk of people worldwide experience trouble sleeping.

In the U.S., it’s 40 percent of adults. And 15 percent suffer from chronic insomnia, with symptoms persisting a month or more consecutively, according to Psychology Today.

Why is sleep loss so rampant? We don’t know exactly but experts point especially to stress. There are many types of stress, but many Americans grapple with stress that’s related to our busy, overwhelmed lives. So many of us feel we can never do enough to actually “get ahead” (whatever that means for you) or we worry too much about the outcomes of things we can’t control.

So some of us spend our days trying to do more to feel better about our lives. Sadly, doing more isn’t necessarily good for us. If we let it, too much doing cuts in on quieter moments of reflection, “me-time” and downtime with people we love.

This reality is inherent in our culture, but never fear! There are ways to change our thought patterns and behaviors—and those changes can help us get better sleep in a more long-term way than popping pills.

For example, recent research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy has succeeded in both shortening time needed to fall asleep and lengthening time spent asleep.

Researchers evaluated 20 studies to determine the affect of cognitive behavioral therapy on troubled sleepers who didn’t have other issues such as depression or sleep apnea. They found that over time, it reduced the time it took to fall asleep by an average of 20 minutes and improved time spent asleep by about 10 percentage points.

So what exactly is cognitive behavioral therapy? It’s a type of talk therapy geared toward helping people learn to change thought patterns and respond better to challenging situations.

Basically, the theory behind it is that the ways in which we respond to life are based less on actual circumstances and more on the meanings we give to them. We all have “internal dialogues” that ascribe meanings and prompt certain feelings and responses (i.e. stress).

We may have these conversations with ourselves without even knowing it—for example, a negative bent when we think about a certain person or jumping to the conclusion that people are annoyed with us when we have little evidence.

But cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to 1) help people identify their self-talk and 2) change it for the better. Training ourselves to think more positively over time helps to reduce the negativity and stress we experience and allows us to react better.

More specifically, this talk therapy for sleep helps insomniacs relax and reduce anxiety and negativity associated with lying in bed. If you’ve had trouble sleeping long enough, it can turn into a vicious cycle in which you lie there thinking, “I’m never going to get to sleep—this is awful.”

Changing those patterns and the resulting pressures might just be the ticket to dreamier nights ahead!

What do you think? Have you had personal experience with therapy and sleep? We’d love to hear from you. Sleep tight, Urbanites!