You may have tried seemingly everything to help yourself sleep, but the problem only lingers or has even gotten worse. You find yourself dragging and feeling sleepy all day, and then inexplicably awake the moment you try to sleep! You've found yourself googling "10 ways to fall sleep" at 2 am and feel like an expert in what everyone says you "should" be doing. You might scream if you hear the words "sleep hygiene" one more time.
Your bed used to be a place of tranquility, but now it sometimes feels like a torture device. You lay awake noticing everything: the covers, the noise, the thoughts in your own head. You try and try to sleep, but you are simply awake. You may have even moved out of your bed and onto the couch or into another bed. Your sleep schedule may now dictate what activities you do in the daytime and you might even avoid morning appointments or activities just in case you need to sleep in.
You probably think about sleep and insomnia a lot. The worry and dread often mounts as the day progresses. You wonder if tonight is a night that will be OK or will be horrible. You may worry this problem will never end. You worry that it is going to effect your long-term health. You worry about worrying too much about sleep!
You may have tried sleeping pills of one kind or another, and you might even take them every single night. However, you might not want to rely on medication or alcohol or other substances to help you fall or stay asleep. You wonder if there is another way, but change is worrisome. You might have heard about the idea of therapy or behavioral methods for insomnia, but you aren't sure what these are or whether they could help.
The good news is that even if you feel as if your poor sleep is ruining your life, there is hope. As a Clinical Health Psychologist, I've been long interested in and have training and experience helping people with insomnia and other sleep disorders. In fact, some of my clinical training was in a sleep disorders center in Chicago where we evaluated and treated a wide variety of people with sleep issues. In my work at university counseling and health centers and in private practice, I've helped people with insomnia, sleep rhythm/schedule problems, and people who have difficulty with sleep due to medical issues including sleep apnea.
The first step with insomnia treatment is to thoroughly examine your difficulty with sleep. We will consider a lot of details, since sleep is complex and a result of biological, behavioral, psychological, and environmental factors. We will identify which factors are most impacting your sleeping problem. We will look at your sleep habits and patterns, as well as all of the things you've tried to do to help you sleep. We may notice that certain things triggered your insomnia, but other things keep it going.
Along the way, I'll help you understand your sleep and teach you ways to reduce the over-arousal you feel in your body and mind as you try to sleep. Our goal will be to help you sleep more like a "normal sleeper" again. The true challenge is that normal sleepers don't try very hard to sleep, they just do. So our goal will be to help you "unlearn" the things that interfere with sleep and to help you find ways to cope with the worry and thoughts about not sleeping.
There are two main non-pharmacological approaches I use in counseling and therapy for insomnia and other sleep problems. One is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) and the other is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Insomnia (ACT-I). I have been trained in both methods and use them according to your needs. A primary focus of CBT-I is restructuring your sleep patterns and behaviors, and a primary focus of ACT-I is using mindfulness and acceptance to deal with all the negative sensations and thoughts that go along with the struggle to sleep. I have several apps and books I routinely recommend to clients that can make this process more helpful.
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