Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can sleep problems be corrected through therapy?"
Is there such a thing as sleep therapy?
Yes, there is such a thing as sleep therapy and it is often a very helpful tool to improve sleep in people with certain forms of insomnia! There are several forms of insomnia in which sleep therapy is particularly beneficial. Many people who report trouble sleeping suffer from either poor sleep hygiene or from psychophysiological insomnia (AKA primary insomnia). In poor sleep hygiene, patients have behaviors and practices in their daily life that are not conducive to the appropriate onset, duration, and quality of sleep. These patients benefit greatly from sleep therapy, because one focus of this therapy is teaching behaviors and habits that are conducive to good quality sleep (called Sleep Hygiene). In psychophysiological insomnia, patients have psychiatric disturbances such as anxiety, excessive worry, or racing thoughts which trigger a physiological response, such as increased heart rate or increased adrenaline, which hinders sleep onset. This type of insomnia is actually something of a vicious cycle, in that the anxiety and worry patients experience is usually generated by the insomnia itself, i.e. patients may toss and turn in bed anxious that tonight may be another miserable sleepless night and they may worry about how they will feel the following day after not sleeping well. Over time, this anxiety and worry becomes tightly linked with sleep and eventually the psychiatric and physiologic disturbances generated by these behaviors become the very barrier that consistently prevents healthy restorative sleep. In sleep therapy, cognitive and behavioral psychological approaches are used to help patients identify and control these maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that are barriers to healthy sleep. The combination of education on good sleep hygiene, eduction of relaxation methods, and cognitive behavioral therapy is often very effective in giving most patients with insomnia the tools they need to improve their sleep as much as possible. For many patients, sleep therapy is even more effective than medications and is substantially safer and more practical over the long term. If you have trouble sleeping, I would recommend making an appointment with a sleep specialist, who can evaluate your sleep problems and recommend the most effective treatment for you.
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