5 On Your Side

Can't sleep? Cognitive therapy could help without effects of pill

Posted September 1

Roughly 68 percent of people have trouble sleeping at least one night a week, according to Consumer Reports.

A lot of people who struggle to sleep pop a sleeping pill. But there are side effects, and Consumer Reports found they don’t work all that well.

New research points to a better solution for insomnia, one that has no side effects.

Bridgette Brawner was desperate for the feeling of a good night's sleep after battling insomnia.

“I was going on over a year of really just not being able to sleep," Brawner said. "It builds up, and it wears on your body, it wears on your mind, it wears on your relationships.”

If your doctor ruled out medical problems as the cause for your poor sleep, Consumer Reports recommends working with a cognitive behavioral therapist.

It's been shown to improve the amount of sleep you get, how often you wake at night and the actual quality of your sleep. The method, though, takes some dedication.

Often times, you’ll be asked to keep a sleep diary, along with rating your sleep and how you feel the next day. The therapist reviews that information and suggests strategies to improve the amount and quality of sleep you’re getting.

The therapist will also help you change your daily routine to set your body’s wake-sleep cycle.

“A lot of our job is to make it absolutely crystal clear to the brain: Now is the time to be awake, now is the time to be asleep," said Dr. James Findley with the Penn Sleep Centers.

Professional CBT insomnia treatment requires roughly two months of weekly sessions and is usually covered by insurance.

To Bridgette, the time and effort were worth it.

“To go through insomnia CBT and to have it actually work—I feel like my joy has been renewed," Brawner said. "I feel like myself again.”

We all know how important sleep is.

You can find a cognitive behavioral therapist at behavioralsleep.org.

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