If you've ever suffered from a sleepless night, you already know the pain and frustration of counting down the hours on your clock until your alarm goes off. This frustration can grow tenfold if you suffer from insomnia, with these countdowns being a part of your regular sleep routine. If so, you've probably wondered time and time again: How do I cope with insomnia? Luckily, research suggests that the power of positive thinking might go a long way towards helping.
I know, I know: Telling someone to simply think positively about something isn't always the best advice. But as Cari Romm explains at Science of Us, "Scorekeeping may actually be working against you in your quest for a few uninterrupted hours of slumber" — and by "scorekeeping," we're talking about that sinking feeling you get as you watch the hours tick by in which you're not asleep. But the idea here is that through thinking positively about the situation, it will actually become easier for you to fall asleep.
Of course, this does not mean you simply plop into bed and think, "Time for some shut eye!" and the magic finally happens. Instead, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may do the trick. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on "exploring relationships among a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviors." Often in CBT, your therapist works with you to uncover unhealthy patterns and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs. if you're an insomniac who is stuck in a negative thought cycle related to sleep, CBT might be just what you need to help turn it around.
So, how does it work? Let's take a look.
How Do CBT and Insomnia Relate?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques can be used to reframe the negative thoughts of not sleeping into the positive thoughts that will help you cope with it. In a piece in the New York Times, writer Roni Caryn Rabin describes her own success with CBT and battling her insomnia: The key element of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is cognitive restructuring, which challenges you to reframe negative ways of thinking that can become their own self-fulfilling prophecies," Rabin explains. “So if you’re lying awake thinking about what a basket case you’ll be tomorrow because you’re not asleep, well, that thought alone will keep you awake."
So here's where CBT comes in: Continues Rabin, "Even though my sleep is often interrupted, the C.B.T. process asks me to reframe this information,” which helps her turn away from the negative, self-fulfilling prophecies that won't get any sleep. Ideally, this helps settle your mind and alleviate your anxiety, better helping you fall asleep.
How To Put CBT Into Action For Insomnia
So, what are some examples of positive thoughts you can use to help you fall asleep? Rabin suggests things like, "I’ll fall asleep eventually,” “I can handle this if it only happens a few nights a week,” or “I usually function pretty well even when I don’t sleep" as ways to lull yourself away from anxiety and frustration at the minutes of rest you are losing. It takes the negative thoughts you might be having ("I'll never fall asleep and I'll be a mess at work in the morning," for example) and turns them into ones of acceptance, which then gives you a sense of power in your own mind. The idea here is that you acknowledge that sleep will come when it comes, and that fretting isn't likely to do much to change it. Trying your best to accept the situation, and even see the bright side of it, calms your mind — something which is essential for a good night's sleep.
The Benefits Of Using CBT For Insomnia
Rabin isn't alone in feeling that CBT was helpful for her sleep, either. As John Cline, PhD, explains at Psychology Today, using CBT to combat insomnia has advantages that aren't found in other treatments, like sleeping aids or medications. As Cline explains it, "When you are dependent on sleeping medication, episodes of rebound insomnia occur when you stop taking it. Side effects such as feeling 'hung over' in the morning are common and alarming effects such as sleep walking and even sleep driving." But with CBT to help you as you fall asleep, you are, ideally, going to bed as naturally as possible, and without side effects in the morning.
Of course there is nothing wrong with using medication or other options besides or in addition to CBT to ease your insomnia; there's no one-size-fits-all answer to insomnia, and a personalized program will help you figure out what works best for you. But CBT is, at least, one thing you can try on your own — who knows? Maybe it will point you in the right direction toward getting a good night's sleep!
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