Make CBT methods your own for most benefit

Q:  I am starting CBT methods to counter insomnia, and wondering how exact do I need to follow the rules?  Is it OK, for instance, to sometimes do some light reading in bed, even though I’m supposed to only use my bed for sleeping and sex?

A:  If you find the reading relaxing and it helps you fall asleep, I wouldn’t worry about it, even though reading in bed runs counter to the “use your bed only for sleep and sex” rule often cited in CBT methodology.

Using your bed only for sleep and sex is part of stimulus control, one of the core methods in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) specifically designed for insomnia.  The idea behind stimulus control is to begin associating your bed and bedroom with the idea of good sleep, while also trying to diminish any negative associations you may have inadvertently created.

So examples of things to avoid in bed include anything potentially stressful like work, talking on the phone if it’s stressful, or arguing with a spouse while in bed. Doing these sorts of things while in bed can undermine the idea of your bed and bedroom as a restful place.

In your case, some light reading — providing the content is not too scary, upsetting, or stimulating — is probably harmless and will not play a very major role one way or another in helping to recover your sleep.

In many ways, making certain refinements to CBT methods so they work best for our own specific needs is a good idea.  Another example of this is with sleep timing, another core CBT method.

Sleep timing methods emphasize the importance of consistency with sleep-wake periods, and especially with wake-up time.  Having a consistent wake time has the profound effect of both helping to regulate your circadian rhythm and also synchronizing it to your homeostatic sleep drive.  Consistency for many people is probably one of the single most important behaviors to employ for better sleep.

But there is no need for excess rigidity in using this method.  For instance, allowing yourself to sleep in for say an extra 10 minutes probably will not have a significant impact, nor would staying up an extra 10 minutes beyond your usual bed time.

On the other hand, you also want to reasonably draw the line at some point if what you’re doing is counterproductive.  Letting yourself sleep in a couple of extra hours, in contrast, would likely not be helpful in promoting good quality sleep the following night.

This is where it’s OK to make a judgement call based on your own specific needs and circumstances, which are constantly changing.  No one can do this for you.  You are the best judge of this.  After all, if CBT methods become too cumbersome or difficult, you’re just not going to use them.  And that’s the whole point — to make CBT methods usable for you and to incorporate them as part of your everyday lifestyle.  By doing so you get the most benefit.

Be confident that as you get more comfortable using CBT methods you will find what works best for your own unique situation , and you can then make the methods your own.

For more on using CBT methods specifically designed for insomnia, feel free to contact us.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep

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