Having trouble falling asleep? Sleep disorders can be a pain in the mattress, but there is not always a clear solution to these types of issues. But therapy may be effective for some sleep disorders.
Before we look at the ways that therapy may be able to help with your sleep-related troubles, let’s look at some of the more common sleep disorders.
Types of Sleep Disorders
There are a lot of different sleep disorders and all of them can negatively impact your well-being and mental health. They are categorized into four different types.
The first type includes anything that causes you to have trouble falling or staying asleep. Insomnia is a common type of sleep disorder that fits into this category.
Another type involves difficulty staying awake. Narcolepsy is the most well-known version of this type of sleep disorder.
The third type is related to the inability to maintain regular sleep schedules. Circadian disorders are one type that falls into this category.
Finally, the last one involves unusual behaviors during sleep. Sleep paralysis and snoring can fall under this type.
Causes of Sleep Disorders
While therapy is not effective for all sleeping disorders, it may be able to help with some by effectively treating an underlying cause. Some causes are genetic or caused by physical medical conditions and therapy is less likely to help with those types.
Therapy may be helpful for sleep disorders that are caused by lifestyle factors. However, it is most likely to help when mental health issues contribute to or cause the problems with sleep.
Therapy vs. Medication
Sleeping pills can be effective for sleep disorders involving difficulty falling or staying asleep and other medicines can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of other types of sleeping problems. But for the types that therapy can effectively treat, why would you want to choose therapy over medication?
Sleep medication may be a valuable, temporary solution, but it does not cure the underlying issue. Plus, it can actually worsen sleeping problems over time and you will gradually build tolerance to the effects. Even when the sleeping medicine is prescribed, it is usually best to combine it with other treatment options, including therapy.
How Can Therapy Help with Sleep Disorders?
Some sleep disorders can be caused by psychological factors and they can also have a negative impact on mental health. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, CBT, can help you change your thinking and behavior around bedtime to make it easier to fall asleep or to get you on a better schedule.
Therapy can also help you learn relaxation techniques or alter your lifestyle habits that may be contributing to your sleep problems. Sleep disorders can be caused by emotional health conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression and therapy can help by treating the underlying issue.
Since the causes, symptoms, and other factors of a sleep disorder can vary greatly between different people and situations, the aim of the therapy should be designed for a person specific problems and conditions.
CBT will most likely not work immediately, but with some effort it can begin to significantly improve your sleep patterns in a course of 1 to 3 months of weekly sessions.
CBT works using two main components: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy will help you to recognize and change your beliefs and thoughts that can impact sleep. The behavioral therapeutic component will teach you to avoid behaviors that may contribute to sleep issues and replace them with healthier sleep habits.
A therapist may also recommend keeping a sleep diary. This will help you examine your behaviors and thoughts to learn how to pinpoint effective solutions.
Changing Thoughts for Better Sleep
You may have found that when you are going to sleep, your thoughts keep you awake or even cause more stress and anxiety. People often complain about thoughts like, “What is wrong with me, I can’t sleep,” or “If I go to sleep now, I will get 5 hours of sleep” while watching the time decrease gradually as the night passes slowly by. Sometimes these thoughts even occur well before bedtime and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Therapy can help you challenge those negative thoughts. First, you have to identify the thoughts that are contributing to poor sleep. Then, you have to challenge those thoughts and replace them with realistic or positive thoughts.
The new thoughts should be accurate and positive and can help you prepare for bedtime. Sometimes it is difficult to replace negative thoughts because they are part of a pattern of thinking that you may have been accustomed to for your entire life.
CBT uses some other techniques to help you sleep better. Each therapist will use different techniques depending on their experiences as well as their sleep issues and health history.
Sleep restriction therapy, SRT, will help you reduce the time that you spend trying to fall asleep by altering sleep schedules. Stimulus control therapy can help you change habits that may be contributing to the problem like screen time and unhealthy sleep habits.
A therapist may also recommend a change in sleeping environment or atmosphere or help you make healthier lifestyle choices like avoiding caffeine and nicotine or exercising more often.
There are also relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation that can be helpful as well. This can help you reduce tension, stress, and anxiety to help you relax prior to sleep.
How Lifestyle Choices and Habits Impact Sleep
Making changes that improve your sleep can take time and effort, but if you suffer from poor sleep, you probably feel like you would do anything to get restful sleep each and every night. Even if you are in therapy, some of these changes may help you improve your sleep more rapidly.
Physical activity is important and can help to reduce anxiety and stress. Getting regular exercise can have a profound impact on sleep as long as it is not too close to bedtime. You can also try to avoid caffeine, nicotine and too much sugar close to bedtime because they can keep you awake. Also, even thought alcohol makes you feel sleepy, it can actually make some symptoms of sleep disorders worse.
Sleep is important for productivity, mood, physical health, and well-being. It can be frustrating not being able to get the sleep that you need. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that medications are the only solution. Depending on the type of sleep disorder, therapy may be an effective option to help you.
Name: Marie Miguel
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
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