Cognitive therapy for insomnia — and creating your own CBT insomnia program — can be your key to peaceful sleep, especially if you suffer from sleep anxiety. It can help unravel the paradoxes that run through all insomnia – especially the one that goes like this: the harder you try to sleep, the less you actually do sleep.
The CBT insomnia cure begins with an understanding of what cognitive behavioral therapy really is.
In order to make it work, you need to recognize that there are certain thoughts that keep repeating themselves in your brain. These thoughts have become habits. The secret of successful cognitive therapy for insomnia is changing the thought habits that keep you awake.
Here’s how cognitive therapy for insomnia (and in general) works:
Step One: First, we identify what we’re thinking.
We need to actually see our thoughts clearly laid out in writing.
That way, we can deal with them.
You can’t fight an unknown force. Once you understand it, then you can deal with it. That’s why it’s so important to write your thoughts down on paper or type them into a document file.
Step Two: Next, we need to realize that our thoughts we’ve written down are not necessarily true or accurate statements.
We might believe they are true right now… but when we examine them closely, we recognize that they are inaccurate, misleading, exaggerated or irrational.
Step Three: Then we need to write down some thoughts or ideas that are more accurate, more rational, and more helpful.
In other words, we REPLACE the old harmful thoughts or beliefs with good, helpful, encouraging, reassuring ones… ones that might help us sleep better by offering another perspective.
Step Four: We then have to read the new replacement thoughts to ourselves over and over and over again…
…through a period of days (or yes, even weeks)… patiently and persistently… until they begin to enter whatever part of the brain that turns them into a new HABIT.
You can call this part of the brain anything you like-the unconscious part, the primitive part, or use some technical, neurology jargon. I like to call it the habit-forming part. Might as well make it simple.
Here’s the most important key to changing habits using cognitive therapy for insomnia:
You can only replace a habit with another habit.
If you take away one habit, you leave a void.
That’s why many people who try to stop smoking end up gaining weight. They have replaced a smoking habit with an eating habit. The brain needs a replacement habit. It does not like an empty space where a habit used to be.
If you do not tell your brain what habit you wish to replace an old one with, it will do it for you… and it won’t be the results you wanted. Left to its own devices, your brain will substitute like with like.
That means one addiction will be replaced with a different addiction, and one anxiety will replaced with a different anxiety… if you don’t take control.
You need to take control and be the boss!
For example, suppose we want to use a cbt insomnia program to deal with a bad case of sleep anxiety. First we have to work at replacing the habit of obsessing over our lack of sleep and how terrible it is, and how it might never get better, and all other negative things associated with it…
We do this with a rational “script” that we read out loud to ourselves a certain number of times within a certain time period.
The reason the cbt insomnia program works…
…is because the script you’re reading out loud makes logical sense and is essentially true.
However, that doesn’t mean you will believe it at first. We all know that just because something is true doesn’t mean we believe it, or just because we believe something doesn’t mean it IS true.
Our new script replaces our old script. That is the key, because as I just said, you cannot just tell your brain to stop doing something it’s accustomed to doing–such as worry–without giving it else something to do in substitution.
The new script is the replacement.
Reading it to ourselves several times a day is the replacement habit.
It is a relatively painless method that requires no special skills or equipment. All it needs is the time, attention and focus you give it. You do have to pay attention to what you’re doing in the CBT insomnia program.
The reason you read out loud to yourself is because listening to your own voice while you read this new script is much more effective than reading it silently. You are using both your eyes and your ears… your sense of sight and your sense of hearing simultaneously.
Engaging these two senses means you will focus better and are less likely to get distracted by your own thoughts.
You can also record the script and play it back while you go into a relaxed, receptive state. This is a mild self-hypnosis technique.
Some people enjoy self-hypnosis and realize great benefits from it. Others prefer to just read their statements out loud. The script will still work if you just say it out loud, without the use of recording it and playing it back. It’s up to you.
Whatever you decide, you can also write your scripts on paper or index cards. You can email or text them to your phone or computer and refer to them throughout the day.
I personally used the read-out-loud method to cure my insomnia.
Most people don’t think that just reading something out loud to themselves every day can work miracles. I’m here to tell you that it can.
Much of what we believe about sleep and insomnia is not really true, but we think it is. It was when I changed my own thoughts through the cbt insomnia program, that I made the first big breakthrough in curing my own chronic sleeplessness. I know you can do that too.