a close up of a person laying on a bed

Insomnia : Can’t Sleep? Try This Proven Alternative to Medication.


In a world where stress and sleepless nights have become all too common, finding an effective alternative to medication for insomnia is crucial. According to a recent article in The New York Times, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (C.B.T.-I.) has proven to be the most effective treatment for those who struggle with sleep. In the United States alone, one in four adults experience symptoms of insomnia each year, and for those who have chronic insomnia, C.B.T.-I. offers a ray of hope. Unlike sleep medication, C.B.T.-I. is safe for adults of all ages and can even be adapted for children. By targeting behaviors that inhibit sleep and addressing anxieties about sleep, C.B.T.-I. helps individuals develop healthier sleep habits and improve their overall well-being. So, if you’re tired of counting sheep and looking for a proven alternative to medication, C.B.T.-I. may just be the solution you’ve been searching for.

The Problem of Insomnia

Are you having trouble falling or staying asleep? If so, you may be dealing with insomnia. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects many adults in the United States. In fact, about one in four adults develop symptoms of insomnia every year. These symptoms may be short-lived and caused by factors such as stress or illness. However, for about one in 10 adults, insomnia becomes chronic, which means they struggle with sleep at least three times a week for three months or longer.

Insomnia can have negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to physical health problems and also harm your mental well-being. Research has shown a link between poor sleep health and depressive symptoms, and a lack of sleep can also cause anxiety and distress. It’s important to address insomnia and find effective treatment to improve your sleep and overall well-being.



The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (C.B.T.-I)

When it comes to treating insomnia, the most effective method is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, also known as C.B.T.-I. This therapy focuses on changing behaviors and thoughts that contribute to insomnia and aims to improve sleep quality. Unlike medication, C.B.T.-I addresses the underlying causes of insomnia and provides long-term solutions.

While medication may provide short-term relief, studies have shown that C.B.T.-I is as effective as sleep medications in the short term and more effective in the long term. In fact, clinical trial data suggests that up to 80 percent of people who try C.B.T.-I see improvements in their sleep. Even those who have dealt with insomnia for many years can find relief in just four to eight sessions of C.B.T.-I.

Risks and Benefits of Sleep Medication

While sleep medication may seem like a quick and easy solution for insomnia, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. Sleep aids can have side effects, especially for older individuals, who may experience problems like falls, memory issues, or confusion as a result of using medication. It’s crucial to weigh the potential risks and benefits before turning to sleep medication.

On the other hand, C.B.T.-I is considered safe for adults of any age and can even be adapted for use in children. It does not come with the risk of side effects that come along with sleep medication. Choosing C.B.T.-I over sleep medication can provide a safe and effective alternative for treating insomnia.


There are some common misconceptions about C.B.T.-I that are important to address. Many people mistakenly assume that C.B.T.-I is solely focused on sleep hygiene, which includes routines and environmental factors that contribute to good sleep. While sleep hygiene is a part of C.B.T.-I, it also encompasses much more.

C.B.T.-I targets behaviors that may inhibit sleep, such as daytime naps or using electronic devices before bed. Through a series of treatments, patients learn more effective behaviors to replace these habits. However, C.B.T.-I also aims to address anxieties and negative beliefs about sleep. Many individuals with chronic insomnia often feel that sleep has become unpredictable and broken. C.B.T.-I helps individuals develop realistic expectations about their sleep and teaches them different relaxation techniques to promote restful sleep.

woman lying on bed with her hand on her face


Developing Healthy Sleep Habits

In addition to C.B.T.-I techniques, developing healthy sleep habits can greatly improve sleep quality. Some relaxation techniques that are often used in C.B.T.-I include deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation. These practices can help calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep.

Another important aspect of C.B.T.-I is reframing the perception of the bed. It’s essential to associate your bed with restful sleep rather than tossing and turning. Patients undergoing C.B.T.-I are encouraged to get out of bed if they are not asleep after 20 or 30 minutes and engage in a quiet activity in dim lighting. This helps break the association between bed and wakefulness.

Additionally, individuals in C.B.T.-I are advised to stay in bed only while drowsy or sleeping. This helps reinforce the idea that the bed is a place for sleep and can lead to more consolidated sleep and shorter time to fall asleep.

Finding a C.B.T.-I Provider

If you’re considering C.B.T.-I as a treatment for insomnia, it’s important to seek medical advice first. Your healthcare provider can rule out any physical or psychological issues that may be contributing to your insomnia and provide appropriate recommendations.

When searching for a C.B.T.-I specialist, it can be helpful to look for providers who are members of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine or utilize the Penn International CBT-I Provider Directory. Your primary care doctor may also be able to provide a referral. It’s important to ensure that the provider you choose has specific training in C.B.T.-I, as some therapists may claim to offer insomnia treatment without the necessary expertise.

Finding a C.B.T.-I provider may present challenges, as there are relatively few clinicians trained in behavioral sleep medicine. Additionally, insurance coverage for C.B.T.-I may vary. However, it’s worth exploring all available options to find a provider who can help you overcome insomnia and improve your sleep.

Self-Directed C.B.T.-I Programs

If you are unable to find a C.B.T.-I provider or prefer a self-directed approach, there are online programs available that can guide you through the principles of C.B.T.-I. Clinical trials have shown that self-directed online C.B.T.-I programs can be just as effective as in-person counseling.

There are several low-cost or free resources that can teach you the main principles of C.B.T.-I. One example is the five-week program “Conquering Insomnia,” which offers a range of options from a PDF guide to an audio relaxation techniques version. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers a free app called “Insomnia Coach,” which provides a guided, weekly training plan, sleep tracking tools, and personal feedback.

For those who prefer to avoid technology, there are also recommended books available, such as “Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep” by Colleen E. Carney and Rachel Manber. These resources can provide a self-guided approach to C.B.T.-I and help you develop healthy sleep habits on your own.

In conclusion, if you’re struggling with insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (C.B.T.-I) is a proven and effective treatment option. It addresses the underlying causes of insomnia and provides long-term solutions. While sleep medication may provide short-term relief, C.B.T.-I offers a safe alternative without the risk of side effects. Whether you choose to work with a C.B.T.-I provider or try self-directed programs, developing healthy sleep habits and addressing negative beliefs about sleep can greatly improve your quality of sleep and overall well-being.


topless man lying on bed beside brown and white short coated dog


CBT for Insomnia: A Comprehensive Guide

Insomnia is a common ailment affecting approximately one-third of all adults. While there are various treatments available, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) stands out as a top choice. Unlike sleep medications, which might offer temporary relief, CBT-I delves into the root causes of insomnia.

Why Choose CBT-I Over Medication? CBT-I has been shown to be more effective than many sleep medications in the long run. It addresses the underlying issues causing sleep disturbances without the side effects often associated with drugs.

The 3-P Model of Insomnia CBT-I operates on the 3-P model, which suggests that insomnia arises from the interplay of Predisposing, Precipitating, and Perpetuating factors. This model helps in understanding the various triggers and maintaining factors of insomnia.

How Does CBT-I Work? CBT-I empowers clients to recognize, challenge, and modify the thoughts that keep them awake. It also educates them on cultivating sleep-friendly habits and avoiding behaviors that exacerbate insomnia. Techniques like relaxation strategies, stimulus control, and sleep restriction are commonly employed.

Real-life Scenarios

  • Judy, 23: Living in a noisy city environment, Judy struggles with sleep. Her CBT-I plan would focus on educating her about sleep hygiene and the 3-P model. Behavioral recommendations might include relaxation techniques and fact-checking emotions.
  • Tim, 39: Tim frequently wakes up in the middle of the night. For him, Sleep Restriction Therapy and Stimulus Control would be crucial. The goal is to recondition him to see his bed solely as a place for sleep.

Online CBT Options With the rise of telehealth, online CBT has become increasingly popular. Platforms like BetterHelp and Online-Therapy.com offer CBT programs that are just as effective as in-person sessions.

Cost Considerations If covered by insurance, CBT-I might only require a per-session co-pay. However, for those paying out-of-pocket, costs can range from $100-$200 per session, depending on various factors.

In Conclusion CBT-I offers a holistic approach to tackling insomnia. By addressing the root causes and equipping individuals with tools and techniques, it provides a sustainable solution to sleep disturbances.