Most people have experienced insomnia at some point. Generally, a disrupting event or a period of stress will trigger an episode of acute insomnia. The sleep problem can easily become chronic and continue for a long time, even if the initial cause is no longer an issue.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
I found the articles listed below after a back injury led to a severe episode of insomnia. I’d had the occasional sleepless night before then, but that episode lasted several months and had a significant impact on my mental health. I highly recommend reading all five articles, but I’ll give you a brief overview, plus my three favorite tips.
The first article explains how to go about solving a sleep issue. You need to do some self-reflection and keep a sleep journal for a week. First, consider if you have any psychological disorders, medical disorders, or sleep disorders that might be disrupting your sleep. If so, address them with your doctor. Then begin your sleep journal, logging the amount of time you believe you sleep each night, your sleep pattern at night, your thoughts about sleep, lifestyle factors that may be impacting your sleep, and your stress level.
The remaining four articles cover the following topics:
- Stimulus control—one of the most widely used and effective interventions for insomnia.
- Cognitive restructuring—addressing stressful thoughts about sleep that prevent a person from falling asleep or cycling into deeper sleep.
- Sleep restriction—a method to consolidate sleep for people who feel they are in and out of sleep all night long.
- Sleep hygiene—good tips, including several you probably don’t know, on do’s and don’ts for good sleep.
What I do for healthy sleep
Stimulus control and cognitive restructuring were both key to addressing my severe episode of insomnia. Nowadays, I deal with shorter episodes of acute insomnia with these three tips:
- I stop drinking alcohol in the evening because that fragments sleep and makes it more likely I will wake between 1-3am and have a difficult time falling back to sleep.
- I start wearing a cheap eye mask. I’ve found that I’m extremely sensitive to light when I’m not sleeping well. The very slight glow from my husband’s phone, the little red light on the fan that we run at night, even a moonlit night through our bedroom curtains can be enough to keep me awake at 2am.
- If those aren’t enough and I have a few bad nights in a row, I follow the advice in the article above on “Stimulus Control”. I get out of bed and sit in a dark room with my eyes open until I feel tired enough that I can easily fall asleep. That way I don’t associate my bed with the stress of not sleeping well.
One last trick–Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a very easy form of guided meditation that you can use if you have a hard time turning your mind off before bed, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep. I find it lulls me into a state of deep relaxation even on nights when I’m anxious or restless.