Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for insomnia targets the thoughts and actions that can disrupt sleep.

This therapy encourages good sleep habits and uses several methods to relieve sleep anxiety.

For example, relaxation training and biofeedback at bedtime are used to reduce anxiety. These strategies help you better control your breathing, heart rate, muscles, and mood.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also works on replacing sleep anxiety with more positive thinking that links being in bed with being asleep. This method also teaches you what to do if you're unable to fall asleep within a reasonable time.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also may involve talking with a therapist one-on-one or in group sessions to help you consider your thoughts and feelings about sleep. This method may encourage you to describe thoughts racing through your mind in terms of how they look, feel, and sound. The goal is for your mind to settle down and stop racing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also focuses on limiting the time you spend in bed while awake. This method involves setting a sleep schedule. At first, you will limit your total time in bed to the typical short length of time you're usually asleep.

This schedule may make you even more tired because some of the allotted time in bed will be taken up by problems falling asleep. However, the resulting tiredness is intended to help you get to sleep more quickly. Over time, the length of time spent in bed is increased until you get a full night of sleep.

For success with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you may need to see a therapist who is skilled in this approach weekly over 2 to 3 months.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works as well as prescription medicine for many people who have chronic insomnia. It also may provide better long-term relief than medicine alone. For people who have insomnia and major depressive disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combined with antidepression medicines has shown promise in relieving both conditions.


Reference: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Last updated May 2017

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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