Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Insomnia?

Asian Woman sleeping in bed

Publish date

Sep 8, 2021

Post Author

Healthy U Behavioral Health


If you’re struggling with sleep and haven’t found any solutions, you may be wondering if there are any effective strategies you could use. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it feel impossible to sleep at times. It can even make it hard to stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia can be an effective treatment for chronic sleep problems and is usually recommended as the first line of treatment. The issues that come with insomnia are far beyond your average sleepless nights.

It can be hard to find adequate solutions from the internet or your family and friends. You may have heard many potential solutions before, such as avoiding caffeine or electronic devices when it’s close to bedtime so that you get to spend more time in bed. Although some of these techniques may work, CBTi can be a more thorough solution that includes relaxation strategies and mindfulness techniques.

CBTi has shown some great results when used to help with insomnia, and it’s often used as the first line of treatment. Unfortunately, there aren’t tons of specially trained clinicians in this therapy. There are great alternatives to virtual CBTi that can help you and your insomnia. The strategies created by professionals may not guarantee success, but they give you a real chance of getting quality sleep.

How Does It Work?

The cognitive portion of CBTi teaches you to understand and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. This type of therapy can help you get rid of or control negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. The behavioral part of CBTi helps with developing good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. Whatever techniques are proposed will be specific to the patient. Some methods, like stimulus control therapy, remove factors that condition your mind to resist sleep.

In some cases, you might be told to set a consistent bedtime and wake time and avoid naps, use the bed only for sleep, and leave the bedroom if you can’t go to sleep within 20 minutes, only returning when you’re sleepy. Too much time in bed when you’re awake can become a habit that leads to poor sleep. This treatment reduces the time you spend in bed, causing partial sleep deprivation, making you more tired the next night. Once your sleep has improved, your time in bed is gradually increased.

In-Person vs. Virtual CBT

In a study from Oxford Academic, three months of virtual CBT was not better or worse than in-person therapy. Overall, virtual-based therapy proved to be just as good in this case, which is surprising, considering that most forms of therapy are more effective when they are in person. Outcomes like increased response rates, daytime functioning, and patient satisfaction show that there is some evidence that CBTi done virtually can work, and the expected response is not less than when compared to CBTi done in person.

This is great news, especially during the pandemic. Virtually therapy for insomnia will continue to evolve to better help patients, as well. CBTi is an effective and safe treatment for insomnia, and by eliminating travel time and distance between healthcare professionals and patients, CBTi can become more accessible.

Although this is good news, many issues exist for patients. People who do not have internet access or a smartphone may still have difficulty accessing appointments by video and may only have access to CBTi on their phones. The uncertainty regarding continued insurance payments for telephone visits may cause further problems for CBTi access. Also, CBTi is not always covered by health insurance plans and is provided predominantly by practitioners that only speak English.

This can be the difference between getting proper sleep or suffering from the consequences of those nights where you couldn’t sleep. Overall, they both have their cons, but it’s worth doing the research to find adequate resources.

Getting the Right Help

Unfortunately, there aren’t many behavioral sleep medicine specialists available, and you may not live near a practitioner. You may have to do some searching to find a trained practitioner or a treatment schedule and type that fit your needs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia can benefit just about anyone with sleep problems. CBTi can help people who have primary insomnia and people with physical problems, such as chronic pain, or mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Sleep is a necessity for functioning effectively in life. Insomnia can prevent people from being productive at work and even with their friends and families. Sleep deprivation can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. This can make something like insomnia even worse, which is why it’s important to begin your attempts to reverse the issue as soon as possible. You may notice while dealing with insomnia that you feel irritable and have an overall lower sense of focus. Luckily, professionals are waiting to help you if you are having trouble or if your insomnia has pushed you to a state of anxiety. Let HealthyU change your life and help you conquer anxiety or depression. We offer plenty of treatment options, like mental health outpatient programs, mental health intensive outpatient programs, and a virtual mental health intensive outpatient program. Contact us today at (619) 542-9542 for information about how we can help you or your loved ones.