Do you read in bed? How about watching television? Eating? If you answered yes to these questions, don’t be surprised if you have trouble sleeping.
How to Cure Insomnia:
A recent study recruited 40 adults who were experiencing acute insomnia (trouble sleeping for less than 3 months). Half of the participants received a self-help pamphlet and just 1 hour of therapy. The other half (the control) didn’t receive any help. The therapy consisted primarily of stimulus control therapy, which instructed participants to get out of bed if they feel angry, frustrated or miserable and only go back to bed when they feel sleepy again (and repeat until they fell asleep). The total amount of time that participants were to spend in bed each night was also restricted. Here’s the main researcher talking about the therapy session:
The researchers found that 60% of the therapy group reported improvements in their sleep quality and didn’t develop chronic insomnia after 1 month. After 3 month, 73% reported improvements in their sleep quality and didn’t develop chronic insomnia. This is contrasted with jut 15% of the control group reporting improvements.
Adding support to the finding, a review from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that stimulus control therapy is the most effective treatment for insomnia.
Stimulus control is one of the most effective ways to improve your sleep. The basic idea is that you want to associate your bed with relaxation and sleep and not things like television, reading and thinking. Here are the 5 steps involved:
- Go to sleep when you’re sleepy (your eye lids are starting to drop, etc.).
- Do not use your bed for anything but sleep.
- If you feel angry, frustrated or miserable, get up and do something else. Other researchers recommend getting up after about 15 minute have elapsed and you’re still awake. Also, avoid blue light during this time as other research has shown that it keeps you awake.
- Go back to bed when you’re tired.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’re asleep.
Over time your body should come to associate your bed with sleep, making it easy to fall asleep fast!
Ellis, J. G., T. Cushing, and A. Germain. “Treating Acute Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a” Single-Shot” of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.” Sleep (2014).