Use your thoughts and behaviours to improve your sleep

Having trouble falling asleep? Do you regularly wake up at the same time each night and have trouble falling asleep again? You could improve the quality of your sleep through cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

CBT is designed to modify behaviours or beliefs that have a negative impact on various chronic health issues. In the case of insomnia, it aims to correct certain harmful beliefs or attitudes, such as anxiety regarding the lack of sleep, and to give helpful tips on improving sleep quality.

For example, CBT might recommend keeping a sleep journal for a few weeks in order to paint a realistic portrait of your sleep patterns (e.g. problems falling asleep, waking up frequently or inability to fall asleep again after waking up) and to evaluate the person’s habits.

Since sleep problems vary from one person to another, CBT must be tailored to the individual’s needs. For example, if anxiety and negative thoughts are the root of the problem, the goal will be to control those thoughts or replace them with a positive attitude. This is the “cognitive” aspect of CBT and the cornerstone of the treatment.

Relaxation and meditation are often used to calm negative thoughts and improve sleep. Another approach is to learn how to be passively awake, i.e. without worrying about the fact that we “need” to fall asleep. These approaches can be very effective, especially when the person really commits to them and takes the time needed to master them.

Working together with the cognitive aspect of CBT, the “behavioural” component is designed to improve the behaviours that are harmful to sleep. For example, for some people it may be to remove all screens from the bedroom (television, computer, cell phone), while for others it may be to avoid stimulants in the hours preceding sleep (coffee, nicotine, intense exercise, etc.) or to establish a bedtime routine (getting up and going to bed at the same time every day).

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you suffer from insomnia!

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