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CBT A Sleep Solution Without The Side Effects

CBT Works For People Struggling With Sleep Issues

One out of four people report having trouble with sleeping, many pop a sleeping pill to help get some much-needed Z’s. But these drugs can come with side effects and don’t always provide the best quality sleep you need to feel refreshed. New research points to cognitive behavioural therapy as a better solution,  with no side effects.

We all have some nights were sleep is a struggle but if this goes on for longer than a month it may be time to address it.


The benefits of good sleep are

Improved concentration

Good energy levels

Improved mood

Greater capacity to learn

Improved immune system

Good memory

Reduced stress levels

The First steps

The first step in addressing a sleep problem is to have any medical conditions ruled out by your general practitioner. A general health check-up by your surgery would also be beneficial.

Then you can implement basic sleep hygiene strategies

Key recommendations are

Begin to relax and prepare for bed at least 2 hours before sleep.

A cool room promotes sleep the temperature should be around 18 Celsius.

Create a good bedtime routine and stick with it even at weekends.

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

Use lavender to relax you at night – spray your pillow.

Magnesium is a good aid for sleep.

Have a warm bath with Epsom salts to relax your physiology.

Don’t spend too long in bed not sleeping, you need to associate bed with sleep.

Ensure your environment is conducive to sleep – comfortable, tidy and dark.

No alcohol or caffeine.

Avoid phones, Ipads and digital engagement in the two hours before bed.

No eating in the 2 hours before bed to settle digestion.

For more information around sleep have a look at The Sleep Councils website

Cognitive behavioural therapy is now the first line treatment for insomnia as it’s been showing some great results. CBT has been shown to improve the amount of sleep you get and the actual quality of your sleep. For a fully qualified CBT therapist ensure they are accredited by the BABCP.

If you have been struggling with your sleep and have followed key recommendations and are still not noticing an improvement in your sleep, then some individual  CBT therapy to help you unpick what is maintaining the problem is likely to be helpful.

The first few sessions of CBT are an assessment, where you will work with your therapist to look at the patterns you are in and to explore any contributing or maintaining factors.

The next step in CBT is to start a sleep diary, along with rating sleep and how you feel the next day. Your therapist will then review that information and suggests strategies to improve the amount and quality of sleep.  An improving sleep pattern programme is then developed and tailored to the individual’s needs and generally, it can take approximately one-two months for an improved sleep pattern to be established.

Often anxious thinking can play a part in poor sleep and will need to be addressed.


Sleep And Your Thoughts

A key maintaining element of sleep problems is often how we think:

CBT-Sleep-Diagram Reverse Sleep Psychology

The more you force yourself to sleep the less sleep you will have. Accept that you won’t sleep and aim to rest instead. Accepting that you won’t sleep sounds strange and can panic people but it’s often the forcing yourself to sleep and increasing the pressure on your self to sleep, which causes the exhaustion the following day due to adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol being released in your body.


Where to get help with insomnia?

Your GP can organise a referral for CBT on the NHS and give you an overview of treatment options for insomnia.

CBT can also be provided privately and you can find a therapist at the


Further resources are available at





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Sarah Rees

Sarah is a fully accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and mental health writer delivering Modern Mental Health for you and with you in Mind. Sarah is the author of ‘The CBT Journal’ which helps you write for your wellbeing incorporating CBT techniques. For more information and to keep in touch have a look at