Insomnia Is Very Treatable With CBT and EMDR Therapy

Woman in Bed with Insomnia

Have you been struggling with insomnia? Do you find yourself worrying about whether you will be able to fall asleep? Insomnia can become a vicious cycle. If you have tried the basic strategies for falling asleep and you are still experiencing sleepless nights, you might want to consider CBT and EMDR therapy for treating your insomnia.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I is a treatment model for teaching your brain to go to sleep. There are some basic steps in this process. 

  • Teaching Good Sleep Hygiene–Just like good dental hygiene is important, so is good sleep hygiene. Check my previous blog post for tips on developing good sleep habits. 
  • Relaxation Training–teaching breathing, meditation, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation to promote restfulness and sleep.
  • Increasing Sleep Efficiency–To determine your sleep efficiency, use the following formula: Time Asleep ÷ Time in Bed = Your Sleep Efficiency Score.  Turn the score into a percent. For Example: if you sleep 5 hours and you are in bed 8 hours, your sleep efficiency score would be 63% (5 ÷ 8 = .625 or 63%). In order to increase your sleep efficiency, your brain needs to associate your bed with sleep (bed = sleep). We want to remove factors that have conditioned your brain to stay awake, and train it to associate going to bed with sleeping. One way of doing this is by limiting the time you spend in bed. 
  • Learn how thoughts can influence your sleep. We will identify and change thoughts that fuel anxiety around sleep or thoughts that make sleep more difficult.

Therapy homework will include maintaining a detailed sleep log and practicing the skills taught in your therapy session.

EMDR for Treating Nightmares or Trauma Related Sleep Problems

If you are experiencing restless sleep or nightmares related to a traumatic or distressing life experience, EMDR therapy can be helpful. By going to the source of the problem, EMDR reduces the distress of the past event(s) that are triggering the poor sleep and nightmares. When those past events are adequately processed they will no longer feel distressing. As a result, they are less likely to trigger nightmares and other sleep related problems. 

Therapy will start by teaching good sleep habits, like in CBT therapy. After some basic resource building, the focus can switch to address the issues that are triggering the sleep disturbance.

Steps to Processing Sleep Disorder Issues with EMDR

  • We start by processing the distressing memories that are triggering nightmares or sleep difficulty. Once these memories no longer feel distressing we will install a positive cognition while looking at that memory. For example, changing a belief that “I’m not safe,” to a belief that “I survived and I’m safe now.”
  • Next, we will process the current stressors and negative beliefs about sleep. For example, the fear of not being able to sleep at bedtime, or the belief that tomorrow will be ruined if you don’t get a good night’s sleep.
  • Finally, EMDR uses a future template to imagine effortlessly going to sleep and staying asleep. This imagery is paired with a positive cognition, like “I am capable of falling asleep.”

Help is Available

If you are struggling with insomnia, don’t hesitate to contact me. We can work together to find a solution and help you find restful and satisfying sleep.