How Can a Therapist Help Improve Your Sleep?

There are several ways that counselling 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 routine. Some of the things listed on sleep hygiene lists may not be 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.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia

Counselling can help improve your sleep by using 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.

Counselling for Sleep

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

EMDR for Sleep

EMDR can be used to help with sleep, especially sleep problems that came after traumatic events. It can help when you experience hypervigilance interfering with sleep, such as waking up alert in the middle of the night. It can also be used to instill routines that promote sleep and falling back asleep after waking.

Problem-Solving around Sleep

A counsellor can help improve your sleep 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)
  • Depression
  • 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.

Limitations of Therapy for Sleep

Despite all the strategies and knowledge a therapist can bring to improving your sleep, there are a couple of limitations solving sleep issues with a therapist. A therapist is not going to be able to help your sleep problems if they need medical interventions. Additionally, if you don’t apply your gaining knowledge and strategies about sleep to your sleep routine and issues, your sleep may not improve.


There are a number of ways that a therapist can help you improve your sleep. Ultimately, it’s about working together to figure out the best treatment plan for what is affecting your sleep and you applying that plan to your sleep routine.

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Published by Leona Westra

A Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) based in Surrey, BC with specialized training in Chronic Pain, Trauma, Nervous System Dysregulation, and Grief.

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