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Sleep Debt


Sleep Debt Is on the Rise

Studies show that 50-70 million adults in the US are diagnosed with some form of a sleep disorder. Moreover, 150 million individuals in the developing world are estimated to be impacted by sleep-related difficulties. Poor sleep can be hazardous to overall health and functioning

Physical Impact

Lack of sleep can cause lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure and cholesterol, lowered immunity, hormonal imbalance as well as fatigue and exhaustion

Psychological Impact

Sleeplessness can lead to emotional problems like feeling tired, lonely, irritable, and moody. It can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Cognitive Impact

Poor sleep is linked to poorer memory. It can also impair a person's ability to process information, concentrate on tasks, solve problems, and make decisions

What defines a sleep disorder?

sleep disorder is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep, leaving you feeling exhausted or sleepy during the day. The most common sleep disorders include  insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and circadian rhythm sleep disorders often triggered by shift work or jet lag.

Why therapy for sleep disorders and not medication?

When you’re desperate for sleep, it can be tempting to reach for a sleeping pill or an over-the-counter sleep aid. But sleep medication won’t cure the problem or address the underlying symptoms—in fact, it can often make sleep problems worse in the long term. That’s not to say there’s never a time or a place for sleep medication. To avoid dependence and tolerance, though, sleeping pills are most effective when used sparingly for short-term situations—such as traveling across time zones or recovering from a medical procedure. Even if your sleep disorder requires the use of prescription medication, experts recommend combining a drug regimen with therapy and healthy lifestyle changes. A recent study at Harvard Medical School found that CBT was more effective at treating chronic insomnia than prescription sleep medication. CBT produced the greatest changes in patients’ ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, and the benefits remained even a year after treatment ended. If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, therapy may be able to relax your mind, change your outlook, improve your daytime habits, and set you up for a good night’s sleep.

How does CBT work for sleep disorders?

CBT addresses negative thoughts and behavior patterns that contribute to insomnia or other sleeping problems. As the name suggests, cognitive behavioral therapy involves two main components: Cognitive therapy teaches you to recognize and change negative beliefs and thoughts (cognitions) that contribute to your sleep problems. Behavioral therapy teaches you how to avoid behaviors that keep you awake at night and replace them with better sleep habits

Behavioral techniques used in CBT for sleep disorders

As well as changing the way you think about sleep, CBT also works to change the habits and behaviors that can prevent you from sleeping well. Depending on your specific symptoms and needs, your therapist may employ some of the following techniques:
Sleep restriction therapy (SRT) -  Reduces the time you spend lying in bed awake by eliminating naps and forcing you to stay up beyond your normal bedtime. This method of sleep deprivation can be especially effective for insomnia. It not only makes you more tired the next night but builds a stronger association between bed and sleep rather than bed and lying awake.
Stimulus control therapy - Helps to identify and change sleep habits that prevent you from sleeping well. This means training you to use your bedroom for just sleep and sex, rather than working or watching TV, and maintaining consistent sleep-wake times, even on weekends.
Improving your sleep environment and sleep hygiene. - Your sleep environment should be dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable, so your therapist may recommend blackout shades, earplugs, or a sound machine to block out noise. Sleep hygiene involves improving your daytime habits to include exercising regularly, avoiding nicotine and caffeine late in the day, and learning to unwind at night.
Remaining passively awake - Also known as “paradoxical intention”. Since worrying about not being able to sleep generates anxiety that keeps you awake, letting go of this worry and making no effort to sleep may, paradoxically, help you to unwind and fall asleep.
Relaxation training - When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises can help you relax at night, relieving tension and anxiety and preparing you for sleep.
Biofeedback  - Uses sensors that measure specific physiological functions—such as heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. Biofeedback teaches you to recognize and control your body’s anxiety response that impacts sleep patterns.
Hypnosis - Can also sometimes be used in CBT for sleep disorders. While you’re in a state of deep relaxation, the hypnotherapist uses different therapeutic techniques to help you change negative thought patterns or unhelpful habits and promote restful sleep.

Relaxation techniques for insomnia

Abdominal breathing.  Breathing deeply and fully, involving not only the chest, but also the belly, lower back, and ribcage, can help you relax. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Progressive muscle relaxation.  Make yourself comfortable. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10, and then relax. Continue to do this for every muscle group in your body, working your way up to the top of your head.
Mindfulness meditation.  Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing and how your body feels in the moment. Allow thoughts and emotions to come and go without judgment, always returning to focus on your breathing and your body

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