Sleep has been described as the third pillar of health along with diet and exercise. Sleep serves numerous vital functions related to health and well-being. Unfortunately, poor or inadequate sleep is highly prevalent among Western adults.
Insomnia is the most prevalent of all sleep disorders. This is due in part to the general nature of the diagnosis. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early, or feeling generally unrefreshed the next day all fall under the insomnia umbrella. Another reason why insomnia is so common is because sleep is easily disrupted by many things such as stress, illness, or even travel.
A majority of people experiencing chronic insomnia can experience a normalization of sleep parameters through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) suggests a new study.
Results indicate that 50 percent to 60 percent of participants with chronic sleep onset insomnia, sleep maintenance insomnia or both experienced remission of their primary sleep difficulty.
The best insomnia treatment is a well-kept secret. It’s not that anyone is purposely hiding it. It’s just that it has yet to find its way from the research world to the clinic and to the people who need it. Unlike sleeping pills that have huge sales potential and marketing budgets, effective non-drug interventions are not rapidly disseminated. So cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, or “CBT-I,” is not yet a household word.
Decades of research, including randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses, have shown that CBT-I is effective at reversing insomnia. In fact, it is the first-line treatment in Canadian, American and British medical guidelines. It is recommended for chronic insomnia, ahead of sleeping pills. However, as yet, access to this excellent treatment is very limited.
One weekend afternoon a couple of years ago, while turning a page of the book I was reading to my daughters, I fell asleep. That’s when I knew it was time to do something about my insomnia.
Data, not pills, was my path to relief.
Insomnia is common. About 30 percent of adults report some symptoms of it, though less than half that figure have all symptoms. Not all insomniacs are severely debilitated zombies. Consistent sleeplessness that causes some daytime problems is all it takes to be considered an insomniac. Most function quite well, and the vast majority go untreated.
Whenever most people have serious trouble sleeping, they automatically reach for a sleeping aid, whether that’s a prescription or over-the-counter medication or a natural remedy.
But these solutions, as psychologist and sleep specialist Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D, explained, are anything but.
In fact, the preferred solution — the one that research also supports — is a treatment that many people, even medical professionals, are unaware of.
Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective for insomnia. (Effective results have been shown in a recent meta-analysis and article review.)
So you can’t sleep. An estimated 30 percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia, and the sensible, standard advice given to them is to practice sleep hygiene and simply try going to bed earlier. If (or when) this fails, there are of course dozens of sleep medications available over the counter or via prescription.
And yet the best treatment for chronic insomnia, according to the scientific literature, is one that most people haven’t tried, no doubt at least in part because it sounds insane: The secret to getting better sleep may be to purposefully get less of it, at least for a time.