Insomnia or Poor Sleep Habits?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Be the Answer

by Annette Pinder

sleeping woman
If you have trouble falling and staying asleep at night, and wake up feeling tired in the morning, you are not alone, and you may be suffering from insomnia.

According to the America Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is defined as having difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking too early, inability to get back to sleep, and lack of refreshing sleep. Just about everyone has trouble sleeping occasionally, but for ongoing insomnia can be a problem.

Board certified sleep specialist Eric Ten Brock, M.D., Chief of Sleep Medicine at University at Buffalo, and Medical Director of Sleep and Wellness Centers of WNY, says changing routines and adopting better sleeping habits can make all the difference. Dr. Ten Brock is a proponent of safe, effective drug-free treatment called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. He says, “CBT helps patients identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that inhibit sleep replacing them with good sleep habits.” The cognitive portion of the therapy involves identifying and eliminating negative thoughts and worries that keep people awake.

The behavioral part of CBT involves developing good sleep habits and eliminating lifestyle behaviors that prevent sleep. Dr. Ten Brock offers the following advice:

  • Refrain from watching TV in bed or playing on the computer.
  • Don’t drink caffeine late in the day or drink too much alcohol.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and hide the clock from view.
  • Don’t play on the computer in bed.
  • Don’t lie awake worrying about not being able to fall asleep.
  • Try meditation and imagery to calm the mind and body.

Other behavioral components include the techniques of stimulus control and sleep restriction both of which are employed by Dr. Ten Brock and the other sleep specialists at UBMD Sleep Medicine. Sometimes Ten Brock asks patients to take a biofeedback device home to record their daily patterns to gain better insight into what is affecting sleep, including heart rate and muscle tension.

Generally, Dr. Ten Brock says CBT is often preferable to sleep medications for long-term use. He says, “While sleep medications can be effective for short-term treatment and provide relief during periods of high stress or grief, they are generally not the best long-term insomnia solution treatment.” So if you are having difficulty sleeping and you are worried about becoming dependent upon sleep medications, or if sleep medications aren’t effective, you may want to consider CBT treatment or CBT treatment in combination with sleep medication.

It is important to know that insomnia is unlikely to improve without treatment, and the disorder is associated with a number of physical and mental health disorders, including substance abuse. Ongoing lack of sleep increases your risk of illness and infection, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Additionally, some medications can contribute to insomnia.

For more information regarding insomnia, visit the National Sleep Foundation website at www.sleepfoundation.org or www.sleepandwellnessctrs.com.

Dr. Ten Brock is one of a few sleep physicians that is certified in behavioral sleep medicine in New York State. He evaluates a broad range of sleep disturbances in patients in several UB affiliated clinics and insomnia is a key focus of his practice. To learn more or make an appointment visit www.sleepandwellnessctrs.com or call (716) 691-6283.