Cognitive behavioural therapy has also been shown to help enormously with sleeplessness. It is highly effective at combating the feelings of anxiety that prevent us from relaxing and sleeping and can be used any time of the day or night.
At the basis of CBT is the idea that a particular thought, or 'cognition', creates certain emotions that cause physical responses, which form how we behave. In other words, if we have a negative thought, we will have negative emotions and exhibit behaviour based on this negative emotion. CBT works simply by turning such negative thoughts, or negative cognitions, into positive ones.
"Each time we have an anxious thought our body starts to respond in particular ways"
Each time we have an anxious thought our body starts to respond in particular ways – we produce stress hormones, our heart rate and blood pressure increase and we may feel hot and agitated. While we may not realise our body also responds to a good thought but in a very different way – we decrease our levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol, our heart rate and blood pressure go down and we feel relaxed and happy.
The idea behind CBT is therefore to teach us to think of alternative more positive thoughts whenever we start having anxious thoughts that actually don't achieve anything other than to make us feel even more anxious (sometimes thoughts like these are called unproductive thoughts). In so doing we will cut short, and perhaps eventually prevent, the negative thought from happening and thereby minimise the amount of stress hormones in our body which prevent us from sleeping.
So next time you are having trouble sleeping and are having negative unproductive thoughts try some CBT and see if it helps. Changing negative for more positive thoughts will take practice and you may need some help learning the technique.
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