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Should you see a sleep psychologist? Talk therapy for insomnia

Talk Therapy For Insomnia

Do you spend most of your nights lying in bed, struggling to sleep?

You’re not alone. Maybe you suffer from chronic insomnia disorder or psychophysiological insomnia?

Sleep deprivation is a common problem for people around the world. Many of us deal with difficulties falling asleep in the typical home sleep setting at the desired time.

Depending on how long your sleep issues last, you may even be tempted to try popping pills to address the issue. Everything from antihistamines to benzodiazepines can assist with addressing the short-term issues of sleep loss. 

Unfortunately, while pills can be partially effective, they only really work for a limited period of time. If you want to overcome your disorder once and for all, you need to get to the bottom of what’s stumping your slumber. 

That’s where talk therapy with a sleep psychologist comes in. 

What is talk therapy for insomnia? 

You may have heard of talk therapy in discussions about anxiety, depression, and stress before. With talk therapy, sleep psychologists focus on getting to the root of certain issues by talking through a patient’s experiences and feelings. 

Talk therapy is a component of CBT for insomnia. Within CBT, your sleep psychologist will talk about the factors that might be keeping you from a good night’s sleep.

Only when you discuss your thoughts and feelings in depth will your therapist be able to make tailored suggestions about how you can adapt your thoughts and behavioural patterns. 

Research proves that talk therapy, and CBT-I in general can help people with sleep disorders. The sleep psychologist can help you to overcome the issues that are making it difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep. 

The most important thing to remember about talk therapy for insomnia, is that it’s helpful because it doesn’t just treat the symptoms of a sleep disorder. 

Instead of popping a pill whenever you feel stressed, worried, or unable to sleep, talk therapy encourages you to have conversations about what may be causing those feelings. 

Up to 15% of adults around the world have sleep difficulties, which often lead to other problems like anxiety, depression, and more. A sleep psychologist can help to find out what’s causing the sleep problems, as well as give you methods to cope with the emotional side effects. 

Talk Therapy For Insomnia

How does talk therapy work for sleep?

A sleep psychologist help you identify misguided beliefs about sleep, such as unrealistic expectations about sleep and fears about lack of sleep.

They help you replace negative thoughts and emotions that might occur when you’re about to fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Although therapeutic treatments for sleep disorders have long been recommended as a good alternative to drug-focused strategies, we haven’t always had a lot of evidence that talk therapy is useful. Fortunately, scientists have begun to rectify this. 

One recent review study of 20 different pieces of research looked at adults with insomnia who were getting various forms of psychiatric treatment. The research was careful to examine participants with no other psychiatric problems like depression. 

For people without underlying issues, the review indicated that CBT for insomnia and talking therapies are very useful. However, the experts behind the study said that the participants need to be willing to work hard at changing their behaviours and attitudes to sleep. 

In other words, talking to your sleep psychologist about your concerns is just the first step. You also need to use what you learn in your discussions too. 

The clinical review indicated that the average time it took for participants to get to sleep before CBT for insomnia was just under an hour. Additionally, the average time awake in bed after initially falling asleep was around an hour and a quarter. 

After talk therapy, time to get to sleep was improved by 20 minutes, while time awake after getting to sleep was reduced by around 30 minutes. 

Researchers also noted that the time that people spent in bed and sleeping improved by around 10%. These are some significant changes. 

Talk Therapy For Insomnia

The benefits of talk therapy: Teaching coping mechanisms

With talk therapy for insomnia, people who have trouble getting to sleep can overcome the ingrained behaviours that are maintaining their problems. 

For instance, people with insomnia can frequently develop anxiety about going to bed. They start to worry about what might happen if they can’t get to sleep. As said above, talk therapy for insomnia eliminates this negative thought process. 

Although the kind of treatment that you get during CBT for insomnia will differ depending on your therapist, the essential elements of the process remain the same. Stimulus control, for example, helps to improve the relationship between the bed and sleep. 

Additionally, sleep hygiene training supports good bedtime habits. Talk therapy for insomnia teaches patients skills that they can use and maintain throughout their lives. 

Your sleep specialist might help you to:

  • Get up and leave the bedroom when you can’t get to sleep.
  • Overcome sleep anxiety.
  • Restrict sleep in a healthy way that improves your circadian rhythm.
  • Examine your sleep habits, like using alcohol and nicotine.
  • Practice positive relaxation techniques.
Talk Therapy For Insomnia

How long does CBT for insomnia take? 

The only downside to talk therapy?

It’s not a quick fix. 

You’ll usually need around four to six therapy sessions on average just to learn the techniques of CBT for insomnia. Depending on the kind of talking therapy you’re going to be using, your routine might take a lot longer

The research definitely indicates that cognitive behavioural therapy and talk therapy is effective for insomnia. These strategies work well beyond the initial treatment period, unlike medications which don’t generally address underlying problems. 

However, there are challenges. 

For instance, it takes more time to see results from talk therapy than it does to feel the impact of a sleeping pill. Additionally, patients who have suffered from several years of poor sleep might not want to invest the time. 

Because of this, many doctors may use a combination of sleeping pills and talk therapy to assist their patients. 

While the pills can help people to get to sleep faster when they’re struggling with severe insomnia, the talking therapy will get to the bottom of the problem and discover how to overcome the issue long-term. 

Talk Therapy For Insomnia

Working with your sleep psychologist

Your doctor will usually recommend talk therapy or another form of therapy for insomnia after conducting a sleep study. This will ensure that there aren’t any underlying reasons for your sleep disorder. 

During sessions, you’ll work with your sleep therapist to break down potential problems into separate parts, such as your thoughts and actions. You can also try and figure out whether your thoughts and actions or unrealistic or unhelpful, so you know where you need to make changes. 

Once you figure out how and where you can change, your therapist will help you to practice different behaviours throughout your life, and you’ll discuss how you’ve got on in each session. 

Crucially, you’ll need to be willing to put plenty of effort into making sure that your talking therapy actually works. While your therapist can guide you to the right actions, it’s you that actually need to change the behaviour. 

A big part of successful therapy is therefore feeling comfortable with your therapist, and their ability to guide you. 

If you’re not happy with the sleep therapist your doctor recommends for CBT for insomnia, don’t be afraid to let them know. You’ll make progress a lot faster if you know that the therapist, you’re working for is right for you. 

Speak to your doctor about your concerns if you feel as though you’re not clicking with your therapist. They can recommend someone new. Additionally, if you feel generally comfortable with your therapist, but you’re not sure about something that they want you to do, ask about it. 

Your therapist will expect you to ask questions about their suggestions and how different behaviours will be helpful for you. 

Time to talk about your sleep problems?

It’s easy to immediately jump into relying on medication to overcome your sleep problems

After all, popping a pill is much easier than getting to the bottom of what’s making it difficult for you to fall asleep. If you’re suffering from feelings of anxiety and depression, talking therapy and CBT for insomnia might even force you to address uncomfortable situations. 

However, while pills only deal with the symptoms of insomnia, talking therapy can help to deal with the root cause. 

Sometime as simple as talking through the issues and behaviours that are forcing you to stay awake each night could be enough to completely eliminate the bad actions that are perpetuating a negative sleep cycle. 

Just make sure that you speak to your doctor before you start seeking out therapy for insomnia. Most doctors will want to conduct a study first to make sure that there aren’t any physiological reasons for your sleep issues before you begin treatment. 

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

Medical disclaimer
You must not rely on the information provided on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other healthcare professionals. For more information read our full disclaimer here.

Medical Expert

Siestio is an evidence-based resource dedicated to sleep and wellbeing. Whether you’re affected directly or indirectly by sleep issues, we’re here to help. Because we believe sleep matters.

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