How Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Can Help
By- Dr. David Prescott
For many children, young adults, and adults, the start of school means a change in routine and a change in schedule. Such changes often lead to disruptive sleeping patterns, which if they persist, can cause a wide range of difficulties with health, mental health, and mental sharpness.
Psychology has developed specific strategies to help people who struggle with poor sleep to improve their sleep in long lasting ways. These strategies appear to work as well, and perhaps better, than typical sleep medications for many people.
Sleep Problems are Relatively Common: Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation suggest that as many as 4 in 10 adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with daily activities. As many as 7 in 10 children have some type of sleep problem a few nights a week. Signs of poor sleep include moodiness, apathy, being more impulsive, and impaired memory.
Poor Sleep Means more than Just Being Tired: Research increasingly supports the idea that chronic poor sleep is associated with, or may cause, a number of other health problems. People with chronic poor sleep appear to be at higher risk for high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems. Poor sleep is a symptom, and in some cases a cause, of mental health problems like major depression.
While exact estimates are difficult, falling asleep while driving is estimated to cause as many as 100,000 automobile crashes, and as many as 1,500 deaths, in the United States each year.
General Strategies for Improving Sleep: Most experts agree that some common sense advice can help improve sleep. While many people are aware of these strategies, it is important to make sure that you truly follow them. Good sleep strategies include:
· Going to bed and waking up at about the same time each day.
· Avoid smoking, heavy meals, and alcohol before trying to go to sleep.
· Get regular exercise.
· Develop a regular bed time.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Sleep: When general sleep improvement tips do not lead to improved sleep, and people experience long term insomnia, treatment using cognitive behavioral therapy is highly effective, improving sleep for 70-80% of people. Sleep problems may persist even when a co-occurring problem, like depression, has improved.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people change thoughts and attitudes about sleep that interfere with getting good sleep. For example, thoughts like "I won't be able to function if I don't get to sleep" or "I will never get to sleep without medication" may actually contribute to sleep difficulties. In addition, carefully tracking sleep behavior (what you do before going to sleep, sleep schedules) often reveal important behavior patterns that contribute to problems. With treatment, these thinking and behavior patterns can be changed.
For More Information:
American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics
National Sleep Foundation : http://www.sleepfoundation.org
American Academy of Sleep Medicine: http://www.aasmnet.org
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