One or two nights of patchy or nonexistent sleep can have us wondering if you have insomnia. After a week or so, we know there is a problem. The issue now is what to do about it. Insomnia affects approximately 25% of Americans every year. It is characterized by an inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Fortunately, there are several treatments for insomnia, including:

  • Medication
  • Lifestyle Changes
  • Behavior Therapies
  • Sleep Restriction

While there are a variety of different treatments for insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy is effective and does not require medication, making it one of the first options when insomnia rears its head.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a structured counseling to treats mood disorders and the issues that follow, such as insomnia. These types of programs address negative thought patterns and actions and challenge their origins.

Breaking down the adverse thoughts about yourself and the world you live in can change negative and self-destructive behavior. The goal is to replace the behavior that keeps you awake with healthy habits that promote good sleep. Often called CBT-I, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is shown to work for even severe cases of insomnia by identifying and replacing the thoughts and behaviors that keep you from getting the sleep you need.

How Does Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) Work?

A big part of insomnia is the constant flow of negative thoughts that go through our minds when we lay down to sleep. Often, it feels like we activate a switch just by laying down for the night. Then, our brains take that as a sign to begin ruminating over the day’s events, past situations, future circumstances, and conversations you should have or plan to have. These thoughts run through your mind constantly and suddenly you find its morning and you’ve barely slept a wink.

Cognitive behavioral therapy utilizes a two-part approach to tackle sleeping problems. The “cognitive” part works to identify thoughts or beliefs that keep us up at night. The “behavioral” part aims to develop and implicate good sleep habits and behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia applies several techniques. These include:

  • Sleep Restriction
  • Stimulus Control
  • Relaxation Training
  • Biofeedback
  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Environment Improvement
  • Passive Awake State

Typically, the most effective treatment approaches include the use of more than one technique.

Sleep Restriction

Spending too much time in bed awake leads to poor sleep. The sleep restriction technique reduces the time spent in bed as well as the time available to sleep. Missing a little sleep makes you more tired the next night.

Stimulus Control

Removing the factors that generally keep you awake has a great effect on sleep. So, we try to avoid naps and set a strict bedtime and wake time. Leave the bedroom after 20 minutes of insomnia and do not return until you feel sleepy. All of these actions may be employed with the stimulus control technique.

Relaxation Training

Muscle relaxation, meditation, imagery, and yoga are all forms of relaxation training. These techniques train your mind and body to relax at bedtime. Then, when you begin to put these tips to work, your body eventually realizes this happens at bedtime and begins to calm down and ease into sleep.


You can use biological signs such as muscle tension and heart rate to identify sleep issues. A sleep specialist can view the results of a biofeedback test and show you how to adjust them to encourage healthy sleep.

Sleep Hygiene

Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and lack of exercise all impact the amount and quality of sleep you are able to get. Sleep hygiene work involves changing lifestyle choices that have a negative impact on sleep. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bed. Get enough exercise during the day and stop smoking to improve sleep patterns.

Sleep Environment Improvement

The room you sleep in has a lot to do with the quality of sleep you are getting. Improve the sleep environment by removing televisions and covering LED clock displays. Keep the room as dark, quiet, and cool as possible to get the best sleep.

Passive Awake State

Worrying about falling asleep can keep you awake. Therapists use a technique called paradoxical intention for insomnia. During this activity, you try to stay awake. You fight any feeling of tiredness to remain awake for as long as you can. Sleep begins to occur more naturally when the performance anxiety to fall asleep at a certain time is diminished.

Who Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia Help?

Practically anyone with a sleep issue can find some relief with cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. It is helpful to those suffering from primary insomnia as well as those with physical symptoms such as chronic pain or mental issues such as anxiety or depression that can themselves lead to worsening insomnia. With no major negative side effects, CBTI is often a treatment of choice that can show lasting improvements.

Do I Still Need Pills with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?

Sleep medicines are effective as a short-term remedy, and sometimes they work best when you just need relief during stressful times. The death of a loved one, divorce, or losing your job are examples of short-term sleepless situations where medications can be helpful.

Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia is useful for situations where long term insomnia has been an issue. People who are worried they will develop a medication dependency and those who have adverse side effects with medications will find cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia most useful.

Find Help for Insomnia

Experiencing insomnia, even for a short while, can disrupt all facets of your life. So, try to get the help of an experienced counselor as a first step to regaining the restful sleep you need. Make sure whoever you chose has training and experience in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

OptiMindHealth invites you to contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced counselors in sleep matters. We look forward to helping you overcome your sleep battle and learn to fall asleep in a healthy way.