top of page

Treating Insomnia: Effective Strategies for Psychologists

woman sleeping in bed

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects many of our clients. It is characterised by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep. Insomnia can negatively impact an individual's daily functioning and overall quality of life. As a psychologist, you may encounter clients with insomnia as it is commonly associated with many mental health conditions. Here's what you need to know to understand and treat insomnia.

Understanding Insomnia

Insomnia can be categorised as acute or chronic. Acute insomnia refers to brief episodes of difficulty sleeping that last for a few days or weeks, while chronic insomnia refers to ongoing difficulty sleeping that lasts for at least three months. Insomnia can also be categorised as primary or secondary. Primary insomnia is not related to any other health condition, while secondary insomnia is caused by another underlying health condition, such as anxiety or depression.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Depression

  • Bipolar Disorders

  • Chronic pain

  • Certain medications and medical conditions

  • Poor sleep hygiene

  • Lifestyle (e.g being a shift worker)

  • Someone's neurotype such as having ADHD or being Autistic

Treating Insomnia

The most effective treatments for insomnia are non-pharmacological interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I is a structured therapy that helps individuals identify and change the thoughts, behaviours, and emotions that contribute to their insomnia. The following are some strategies that may be included in CBT-I:

  • Understanding the biology of sleep: Teaching clients about their circadian rhythms, their chronotype, and how this impacts sleep quality.

  • Sleep hygiene education: Teach clients about good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and creating a sleep-conducive environment.

  • Stimulus control therapy: Teach clients how to associate their bed and bedroom with sleep.

  • Sleep restriction therapy: Restrict the amount of time clients spend in bed, gradually increasing it as their sleep improves.

  • Emotional regulation techniques: Teach clients techniques to help them fall asleep and reduce their overall levels of anxiety and stress.

  • Cognitive therapy: This component involves identifying and modifying unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about sleep.

Pharmacological interventions, such as sedatives or sleeping pills, may be appropriate for some individuals, particularly those with severe insomnia. However, these medications are generally not recommended as a first-line treatment, due to the risk of dependence and other side effects.

In conclusion, insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can negatively impact an individual's daily functioning and overall quality of life. CBT-I is an effective non-pharmacological treatment for insomnia, which focuses on changing the thoughts, behaviours, and emotions that contribute to insomnia. As a psychologist, you can play an important role in helping clients with insomnia improve their sleep and overall well-being.

Want to learn how to treat Insomnia effectively? Check out my online training program: Treating Insomnia. It is a 2 hour comprehensive self-paced workshop that counts as professional development

I have also developed a guide which has been designed for both allied health professionals and their clients. This resource also includes adaptations for Autistic and ADHD clients who struggle with sleep.

155 views0 comments


bottom of page