There are several ways that a therapist can use to help you improve your sleep. Therapists often know the background to why certain items are listed on sleep hygiene lists and help you figure out how to use them to get you a better sleeping pattern. Some of the things listed on sleep hygiene lists are not practical for certain living situations (i.e., having your bedroom only for sleeping when you are living in a tiny studio or 1-bedroom apartment) and a counsellor can help you figure out what matters.
Use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) to help with thoughts, emotions, and beliefs interfering with sleep. This involves working with your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions to increase your sleep and help to remove mental barriers to sleep. CBT-I is an evidence-based approach to insomnia that helps improve sleep for 70-80% of people with insomnia that have tried it.
A counsellor can help with problem-solving around what affects your sleep with consideration of your personality, mental health challenges, your nervous system, living situation, work/life balance, and so on.
- What matters to you as an individual?
- What is stimulating to you?
- What is your sleep routine and are there improvements that can be made?
- What habits may be preventing you from having a good sleep?
- Do you have a good sleep space?
- What challenges do you have that you need to problem-solve around?
Treating mental health symptoms that could be interfering with sleep:
- Anxiety (rumination can be stimulating)
- Hypervigilance (can prevent you from relaxing enough to fall asleep)
- Trouble relaxing
- Bad dreams/nightmares (can make a person try to avoid sleep to avoid the bad dreams/nightmares)
A counsellor can also provide psychoeducation about sleep, teach you skills that enhance your ability to fall asleep, and techniques to work with some of the barriers that are interfering with you getting a good night’s sleep.
As with any type of therapy, therapy for sleep can only help to the extent that you apply it to your life and nighttime routine.