Sleep difficulties are a feature of nearly every mental health difficulty, including depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use issues, bipolar disorder and psychosis or schizophrenia. Take depression for example. Up to 90% of individuals with depression have sleep difficulties, and two out of every three have significant enough sleep problems to also have a diagnosis of chronic insomnia.
Worse still, insomnia does not tend to go away on its own without appropriate treatment. This is because once people start to sleep poorly, they tend to develop ways of thinking and behaving around sleep that make their problems worse over the long run.
Fortunately, there is a treatment out there that can improve your sleep. It’s called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). It directly targets these unhelpful thoughts and behaviours around sleep, and is the most recommended treatment for insomnia by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
CBT-I is an effective treatment for insomnia. Research findings show it to be similar to sleeping pills at improving sleep in the short-term, and much more effective than sleeping pills at improving sleep in the long-term.
Sleeping pills are not recommended for use beyond 2-4 weeks at a time, because they stop working as well after a while and people may need to take bigger doses over time to get the same effects. Sometimes doctors prescribe them more because they think they will work faster for patients, but even one session of CBT-I has been shown to make a significant difference to one’s sleep at night.
Research shows that CBT-I consistently reduces the time taken to get to sleep, decreases the amount of time spent awake during the night, and improves sleep quality and efficiency, with improvements persisting after treatment finishes. CBT-I can also improve your mood, anxiety, stress and fatigue, so if you are struggling with your mental health, improving your sleep can make a difference to your overall level of functioning and wellbeing.
If you would like to receive a referral for CBT-I treatment, please talk to your GP today.
Dr Damon Ashworth
Improving Your Sleep Can Improve Your Mental Health