Treating Sleep Disorders: What You Need to Know

Sleep disorders can be a major obstacle to getting a good night's rest. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help you get the restful sleep you need. Relaxation therapy or meditation can help you relax and fall asleep faster. Sleep education can help you acquire good sleep habits.

Sleep restriction therapy gives you a specific amount of time to stay in bed, even if you can't sleep during that time. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is generally recommended as a first-line treatment for people with insomnia and is usually the same as or more effective than sleeping pills. A recent study from Harvard Medical School found that CBT was more effective at treating chronic insomnia than prescription sleeping pills, producing the greatest changes in patients' ability to fall and stay asleep, and the benefits were maintained even one year after the end of treatment. Treatment for sleep disorders can vary depending on the type and underlying cause, but usually includes a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. Cognitive therapy teaches you to recognize and change the negative beliefs and thoughts (cognitions) that contribute to your sleep problems.

You can't prevent all types of sleep disorders, but you can reduce your risk by adopting good sleep habits (sleep hygiene). The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD) classifies sleep disorders based on symptoms, how they affect the person (pathophysiology), and the body system they affect. Experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. When you're desperate to sleep, it can be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter sleeping pill or sleeping pill. However, these medications don't cure the problem or address the underlying symptoms; in fact, they can often worsen long-term sleep problems.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can improve your sleep by changing your behavior before bed and changing the ways of thinking that prevent you from falling asleep. If you have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, cognitive therapy may help relax your mind, change your perspective, improve your daytime habits, and prepare you to get a good night's sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) helps you control or eliminate negative thoughts and actions that keep you awake. Sleep restriction therapy (SRT) reduces the time you spend awake in bed by eliminating naps and forcing you to stay awake beyond your normal sleep time. Your primary care doctor may recommend that you see a sleep specialist for a sleep study (polysomnography). Changing sleep habits and addressing any problems that may be associated with insomnia, such as stress, medical conditions, or medications, can restore restful sleep for many people.

Behavioral therapy teaches you to avoid behaviors that keep you awake at night and to replace them with better sleep habits. Working with an online therapist can help you avoid the expense and hassle of having to meet in person, and for many people with sleep problems, it can be as effective as in-person therapy. Even if your sleep disorder requires the use of prescription medications, experts recommend combining a drug regimen with therapy and healthy lifestyle changes.