A common condition I encounter in medical practice is insomnia. Many patients struggle with sleep and many are prescribed hypnotics or sleeping medications. According to the website sleepeducation.com, 10% of adults have a chronic form of insomnia. This means they have problems sleeping 3 times per week for at least 3 months.
Primary insomnia is due to a state of hyperarousal, and when an electro encephalogram (brain wave test) is done, reveals more beta waves than others (alpha, delta and theta). These beta waves are present when we are awake (as opposed to alpha – a state between wakefulness and sleep; such as daydreaming or meditation). People who have primary insomnia also secrete more cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response
Often, patients complain of insomnia and ask for sleeping medications. These promote sleep by affecting certain neurotransmitters such as GABA. Although they do help, I find they are not a permanent solution.
There are other factors involved with poor sleep hygiene, including other stressors of life such as work and family issues. Sleep, then, is a very good mirror on how balanced a person’s life is. When life’s stresses permeate so deeply to affect one’s sleep, I believe the solution must come from within. You need to “re-learn” how to sleep.
An article in the June 8, 2015 New York Times by Austin Frakt describes a method termed cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a way to treat insomnia. Frakt cites a review that looked at time to get to sleep and sleep time when using CBT. The conclusion was that CBT is an effective way to treat insomnia. Mr. Frakt in his article cites an online way to learn CBT as well.
What I like about CBT is that it empowers the person to take control of the situation they’re in. You learn to tell yourself that when you don’t have a good night sleep, it isn’t a bad thing. You simply sleep less or not well enough.
Training your mind to see insomnia as a physiological imbalance needing to be corrected, rather than a fault in yourself, is quite freeing.
What are your thoughts on insomnia or CBT? What methods work for you? I am interested in your comments.