Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia
Insomnia is a very common problem that can take a toll on your body. Research shows poor sleep worsens chronic pain and depression. Researchers believe it is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, too. Many people turn to medication to help them catch some Zzz’s, but they are not meant to be used long-term. Kristen Remington found another option that can help in Health Watch.
Tossing and turning at night affects millions of people who have trouble falling and staying asleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has even called "insufficient sleep" a public health epidemic. While many desperate insomniacs turn to sleeping medication, Dr. Ruth Gentry says it is not your only option. "They are effective, but they're supposed to be used for a short term; a few weeks - six weeks at most."
The University of Nevada professor is a licensed clinical health psychologist and the Director of Integrated Sleep and Wellness. She helps patients like Lucy Dupertuis basically reset their sleeping habits and beliefs. “Actually, usually I'm terrified with the spring time change,” shares Dupertuis during her session with Dr. Gentry. Together they worked through exercises to help Dupertuis fall asleep - without anxiety and pills - which she relied on for years. "I'd say I was on it for three to four years, but eventually it wasn't working that well and I said either I have to increase the dose or quit.” That is when she found Dr. Gentry who uses cognitive behavior therapy to treat insomnia.
Dr. Gentry says it is crucial to track your sleep schedule. “When they got in bed and when they think they actually fell asleep. This person was in bed at 10, but didn't fall asleep for an hour later,” she explains as she shows us a sample of a sleeping diary. In this particular case, Dr. Gentry would encourage the patient not to get in bed until later in the evening when they are actually tired and ready to sleep. Another sleep training strategy is getting up at the same time every day - regardless of how well you sleep. She says do not spend excessive time in bed. Also, learn to let go of your struggles with insomnia. Worrying about not sleeping is not going to help you sleep. She teaches patients deep breathing exercises and mindful meditation.
She also helps patients find ways to quiet the mind. For Dupertuis, that means staying off the computer when she cannot sleep. "Calm things, reading, puzzles, coloring, something quiet, you know?” Eventually, Dupertuis's new patterns set the stage for better sleep. "It worked like a charm!"
To learn more about Cognitive Behavior Therapy Insomnia (CBT-I), watch Ask the Doctor on Monday, March 27th from 5-6 p.m. Dr. Gentry will be taking your calls at (775) 858-2222. You can also log onto www.renosleepwell.com or call Integrated Sleep and Wellness at (775) 826-6218.