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By Nancy Gossard
Welless Editor 

Better Sleep

Behavioral Therapy May Help


Last updated 2/16/2019 at 10:15am

An estimated 50-70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder.

About 25 percent of Americans experience acute insomnia each year, but about 75 percent of these individuals recover without developing persistent or chronic insomnia, according to a June 2018 article in Science Daily from a study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, That leaves around 40,712,500 with chronic insomnia.

From a June 2016 Harvard Health Letter:

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is urging doctors to prescribe a combination of talk therapy and sleep habit changes known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as a first line of defense for chronic insomnia.

The recommendation is in the ACP's new guideline on managing chronic insomnia, published May 2, 2016, in Annals of Internal Medicine. CBT-I has several components, including (1) cognitive behavioral therapy, which redirects anxiety-ridden thoughts about sleep to more positive thoughts about sleep; (2) a reduction in stimuli before bedtime, such as looking at computer and TV screens; (3) relaxation techniques; and (4) an improved sleep environment that's cool and dark.

The ACP reports that CBT-I is likely to be safer than sleep medications, which may be associated with side effects such as driving impairment and worsening depression. If CBT-I doesn't help improve sleep, the ACP urges doctors to talk about the risks and benefits of drug therapy before prescribing it.

Researchers from the Sleep and Pain Lab in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick discovered a connection between pain and insomnia. If you are one of the people with pain who believe they won't be able to sleep and are more likely to suffer from insomnia, this is for you. The way chronic pain patients think about pain and sleep can lead to insomnia and poor management of pain. This can be effectively managed by, again, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

A description of CBT from Harvard Medical School: CBT for insomnia aims to change the negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep into positive ones. People with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with sleep and apprehensive about the consequences of poor sleep. This worry makes relaxing and falling asleep nearly impossible. The basic tenets of this therapy include setting realistic goals and learning to let go of inaccurate thoughts that can interfere with sleep.

I have not ordered this book, but it looks like a great solution for those seeking it: Improving Sleep: A guide to a good night's rest, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School that brings you the latest research on the science of sleep, plus the information you need to fall asleep faster, stay asleep all night, and wake up feeling refreshed.

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