Sleep Talking: Can ‘Talk Therapy’ help us sleep?

By Kate Hassett

Sleep Talking: Can ‘Talk Therapy’ help us sleep?
Can sleeping disorders be 'talked away'?

New research has been released speaking of the benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in helping people with sleeping disorders, finally get to sleep.

Better known as “talk therapy”, studies have shown that people who partake in this type of therapy have improved their ability to fall asleep faster and for longer.

The approach works around finding out why you are not sleeping. It sounds simple, but quite often, the quick fix that sleeping tablets allow, does nothing to solve a deeper and more complex issue.

What are the results of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

Post therapy, participants have been able to fall asleep up to 20 minutes faster and have taken significantly less time to fall back asleep after waking in the night.

Follow up studies have shown the lasting effect, with results beyond the trial period being  seen over six months later.

David Cunnington, MBBS a researcher at the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre and senior author of the review, said the total amount of sleep is not of concern to them at this point. “What is more important is the time taken to get to sleep and how much time is spent awake during the night. So improvements in those measures are key,” said Cunnington.

Up to 15% of adults have ongoing or ‘chronic’ insomnia and the disorder can be linked to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The real effects of insomnia are all encompassing for the sufferers of the debilitating disorder, with many looking to sleeping pills which actually perpetuate the insomnia, according to Cunnington.

“People with chronic insomnia worry about the lack of sleep and the impact of insomnia on daytime functioning,” says Charles Morin, PhD, Canada research chair on sleep disorders. “That becomes a vicious cycle. The more you worry about sleep, the longer you stay awake.”

What is Talk Therapy?

The ‘talk therapy’ is directly concerned with combatting this problem and stopping the cycle in its tracks.

Talk therapy as a treatment, is somewhat overlooked according to researchers, who say that many want quick fix solution with little effort.

Can a therapist help?

Khalid Eltawil, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at UCLA Health said the review was important for ensuring that patients are able to seek a more comprehensive and long-term solution to their disorder.

By addressing the potential reasons why patients are not sleeping, therapists are able to identify and control the issues at the source, limiting stress around sleep times and helping to combat a dominating issue like insomnia.

A therapist will ideally help you learn to do the following, according to Cunnington.

– Identify misguided beliefs, such as unrealistic expectations about sleep and fears surrounding lack of sleep.

– Get up and leave the bed if you are not falling asleep.

– Examine your sleeping habits, this includes avoiding nicotine, alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.

– Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation and breathing to ease anxiety about not sleeping.


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