The relation between sleep and mental wellness has become increasingly clear over the last 10 to 15 years. We know that feeling well-rested better prepares us to tolerate stress, manage daily responsibilities, and progress toward short and long-term goals.
Disrupted sleep was once thought to be a symptom of psychiatric disorders, but we now know that poor sleep can actually contribute to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and psychotic spectrum disorders. Research has shown that in individuals who have both a psychiatric disorder and a sleeping issue (such as insomnia), the treatment of the sleep issue can contribute substantially to an improved quality of life by reducing the severity of the mental health problem.
In order to improve your sleep, it is crucial to ensure proper sleep hygiene . Generally speaking, it is important to be consistent with your sleep hygiene for two consecutive weeks before judging its efficacy. Proper sleep hygiene can greatly improve your sleep if you do not have insomnia. If you have insomnia, however, sleep hygiene may not be sufficient to alleviate your sleeping difficulties.
Some of the symptoms of insomnia include:
* Difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or frequent early morning awakenings with an inability to return to sleep
* Distress associated with sleep that affects social, occupational, and behavioural functioning
* Sleep difficulty occurring at least 3 nights per week
* Sleep difficulty that persists for at least 3 months
* Sleep disturbances not explained by other mental disorders or medical conditions
If the above symptoms sound familiar, it may be wise to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), which is a short-term, individually tailored therapy that has been shown to be as effective as sleeping medications. The primary benefit of CBT-I, however, is that it does not rely upon adherence to medications. In fact, over the long term it has been shown that individuals who go through CBT-I are better able to fix their own sleeping difficulties should they again arise in the future. This is due to the fact that CBT-I is a skills-based treatment, which means that when you undergo the treatment, you learn the principles of sleep and your own sleep profile. In short, you learn to become your own sleep specialist.
CBT-I works on several key concepts throughout treatment that aim to realign your circadian rhythm with your body’s natural drive for sleep, in order to produce a greater depth of sleep. The relation between sleep and anxious thoughts is also examined in detail, and you are taught how to reduce the impact of these thoughts.
By: MATTHEW KING, Ph.D., C.Psych. (Supervised Practice)
Matthew King received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Ryerson University. He completed his pre-doctoral internship at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton in which he trained extensively at the Mood Disorders Program, the Schizophrenia Outpatient Clinic, and Women’s Health Concerns Clinic.