Therapy FAQ

Breaking Down Insomnia: How Sleep Therapy Can Help

Struggling to catch quality Z’s? You’re not alone. Millions grapple with sleep issues, from insomnia to sleep apnea. Sleep therapy offers a path to restorative rest and better health. Delve into its techniques and learn when to seek professional aid.

Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta By Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Updated on May 20, 2024

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Are you finding it difficult to get a good night’s sleep? If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, approximately 50-70 million Americans struggle with sleeping problems, such as sleep apnea or insomnia.

Fortunately, sleep therapy is a safe and effective treatment to help you get the restful sleep you require. Besides helping you reclaim your night’s sleep, therapy has many other health benefits.

This article explores the different types of sleep therapy available, how they can help you, and when you should consider seeking professional help.

What Is Sleep Therapy?

Sleep therapy, also known as sleep counseling or sleep psychotherapy, is designed to help people improve their sleep habits and overcome sleep disorders. Sleep therapy aims to identify and address the root causes of sleep problems, ranging from medical conditions to psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

Sleep therapy may be offered in different settings, such as individual or group therapy sessions, and it may be conducted by different types of mental health care professionals, including licensed therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

If you struggle with chronic insomnia, restless sleep, or any other type of sleep disorder, sleep therapy may help you get better sleep and improve your overall well-being.

How Does Sleep Therapy Work?

If you’re having trouble sleeping, a licensed therapist or psychologist specializing in sleep disorders can help you address your concerns through sleep therapy.

A sleep therapist uses a variety of techniques and strategies to treat sleep problems. Such methods include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and sleep-related behaviors. Approximately 70-80% of patients who undergo CBT-I as a primary insomnia treatment report positive sleep efficiency changes.

During CBT-I, you will work alongside your therapist to determine and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that may keep you from sleeping well. You will also learn new behaviors and habits to promote better sleep, such as maintaining a definite sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.

CBT-I typically involves several sessions over weeks or months. The process may also include keeping a sleep diary or using a sleep-tracking device to monitor your progress. Sometimes, your therapist may also recommend medication to help you overcome sleep restrictions.

In a nutshell, CBT-I can be a powerful tool for improving your sleep and your quality of life. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or a qualified therapist about whether CBT-I might suit you.

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Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is another approach that sleep therapists use to help their patients get better sleep. The process involves practical strategies promoting good habits and practices that lead to healthy sleep. Here are tried and tested sleep hygiene tips that you can start practicing daily:

Stimulus Control Therapy

Stimulus control therapy is effective for those with a negative association with their bed and bedroom due to insomnia. In psychiatry, this type of therapy is anchored on the idea that people with insomnia can develop negative associations with their bed and bedroom.

Stimulus control therapy aims to break this negative association by making the bedroom a place of relaxation, rather than frustration and stress. To do this, therapists may recommend the following:

Relaxation Training

The relaxation training technique aims to promote relaxation, decrease anxiety and stress, and ultimately help individuals fall asleep faster and longer.

Relaxation training can be performed through various exercises that help individuals unwind and reduce physical tension in their bodies, including:

When Should You See a Therapist for Sleep?

Kristina Anzell, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy, says, “Working with a sleep therapist helps you determine the causes of your sleep difficulties and develop personalized strategies to improve the quality of your sleep. A therapist also provides ongoing support and guidance as you change your sleep habits and behaviors.”

Consider consulting a sleep therapist if you identify with any of the following:

You Have Tried Self-Help Methods Without Success

If you have tried all the basic techniques to improve your sleep quality, such as exercising regularly, limiting caffeine intake, and creating a consistent bedtime routine, but are still struggling with sleep. Then, seeking professional help might be necessary.

Seeking therapy for sleep doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable of solving the issue alone. It’s a brave and proactive step towards improving your overall wellness.

You Have Trouble Falling or Staying Asleep

Do you frequently lie awake in bed for hours or wake up during the night and are unable to fall back asleep? You could be having a deeper underlying issue. You need to find professional help from a qualified sleep therapist to ascertain the cause of sleeplessness.

Inability to sleep could also be related to other mental issues. If you are also having symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems, your sleep problems may be linked to other complications and require professional treatment.

Your Sleep Problems Are Impacting Your Daily Life

Sleep is meant to re-energize your body and mind so you can feel relaxed, calm, and ready to tackle your routine the next day. Lack of quality sleep leads to a feeling of persistent fatigue and may lead to problems with carrying out your daily duties.

If your sleep problems interfere with your ability to function during the day, such as feeling tired or irritable or affecting your work or personal relationships, it may be time to look for professional help.

You Experience Frequent Nightmares or Night Terrors

If you are experiencing disturbing or vivid dreams, or wake up feeling anxious during the night, it may be an indicator of underlying emotional issues that can be addressed in therapy.

Who Can Sleep Therapy Help?

Sleep therapy can benefit a variety of individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation. It may also be a worthwhile treatment option for those who suffer from the following underlying mental health conditions:


Depression is a mental condition that can significantly impact your ability to get restful sleep. People who suffer from depression may struggle with insomnia or have trouble staying asleep. Depression leads to changes in your sleep cycle, like sleeping too much or having frequent naps, making it difficult to function normally during the day.

Sleep therapy can help people with depression feel more rested and energized during the day, working toward improving their mood and overall well-being. It is critical to talk to a mental health professional if you have depression to get the right treatment plan, including sleep therapy and sleeping pills.


Anxiety is a prevalent mental health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. People suffering from anxiety often have problems falling asleep or staying asleep at night. They also experience nightmares or night terrors, which can be incredibly disruptive to their overall quality of life.

Sleep therapy can be beneficial for people with anxiety. It provides them with a supportive and safe way to explore their fears, anxieties, and worries in a non-judgmental environment. By learning new coping strategies, relaxation techniques, and sleep hygiene practices, they can manage their anxiety symptoms more effectively, leading to better sleep quality and overall mental well-being.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, ranging from episodes of high energy and euphoria (mania) to bouts of depression and low mood (depressive). These mood swings can severely affect a person’s sleep patterns, causing either insomnia or hypersomnia. Changes in sleep patterns are often the first signs of a bipolar episode.

Sleep therapy can be incredibly helpful for those with bipolar disorder. A sleep specialist can help regulate sleep patterns, which can have a serious impact on mood stabilization. For example, ensuring a regular sleep schedule and implementing relaxation techniques can help prevent mania or depression episodes.

Sleep therapy can help identify any underlying sleep disorders that may be exacerbating bipolar disorder symptoms. For instance, a sleep therapist may diagnose and treat sleep apnea, which can cause disruptions in breathing during sleep and lead to short-term sleep, fatigue, and cognitive impairment.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood, behavior, and relationships. Individuals with BPD may have trouble regulating their emotions, leading to intense and unstable relationships with others. This can also affect their sleep patterns, making falling or staying asleep difficult.

Sleep therapy is a beneficial form of treatment for individuals with BPD. Therapy helps them develop healthy sleep habits, regulate their circadian rhythm, and improve their overall quality of life. In addition to sleep therapy, BPD treatment often involves talk therapy and other sleep medications to manage symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is a basic aspect of our lives, and lack of it can significantly impact our physical and mental well-being. If you have been having sleep issues for a prolonged period, it may be time to seek professional help from a sleep therapist.

With the guidance of an experienced and qualified therapist, you can develop personalized sleep solutions that will enable you to rest better and live a healthier life. Don’t let sleep problems disrupt your life any longer; reach out to a sleep therapist and enjoy restful nights again.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta is a licensed mental health counselor with over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. She helps individuals overcome numerous issues, including stress and anxiety disorders, self-esteem issues, relationship issues, depression, behavioral issues, and grief.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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