A Single Therapy Session Could Help You Get To Sleep

Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Sleep is such a precious treasure in this fast-paced world of ours, and there could be dire consequences if you're having trouble getting enough of it. But, new research suggests that a single session with a therapist could help insomniacs get back their ZZZs.

In a small study, published this month in the journal Sleep, 20 adults diagnosed with acute insomnia (meaning it lasts for no more than three months, so it isn't chronic) underwent a cognitive behavioral therapy session (CBT) for about an hour. Another 20 insomniacs were put on the waitlist for therapy to serve as the control group (everyone was offered it eventually). Also, all participants kept sleep diaries and had to complete a questionnaire assessing the severity of their insomnia before treatment and a month after.

Usually, CBT involves exploring how your thoughts and feelings actually influence the things you do. So, a therapist might work with you in a solution-focused way to explore any patterns of destructive behavior. As one part of the therapy in this study, participants were prescribed individual bedtimes based on their sleep diaries and their specific needs.

Results showed that participants who had gone through the therapy session had significantly less severe insomnia a month later compared to the control group. And, after that month, 60% of those who'd had CBT were sleeping better (compared to 15% of control participants). After three months, that figure went up to 73%.

Still, the study was pretty darn small and no one in it had ever undergone this therapy before. So, it's too early to say how many insomniacs out there could truly be "cured" by CBT or if there's any value for people switching from another type of therapy. Nonetheless, finding a way to treat acute insomnia is especially important, because it can eventually become chronic under the right circumstances. Luckily, there's already a fair amount of evidence to suggest that CBT can also help with longer-lasting insomnia.

However, if you're already on the therapy train and you're still having trouble sleeping, there could be something else going on — a discussion with your therapist and/or doctor could help pin it down. Getting those ZZZs is clearly important, so it's worth fighting for 'em.
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