Mental Health

Changing Sleep Patterns, Calming the Mind Key to Battling Insomnia, Depression Says Researcher

Changing Sleep Patterns, Calming the Mind Key to Battling Insomnia, Depression Says Researcher

— Sleepless nights. Missed work days. As anyone with insomnia will attest, the condition can lead to intense personal suffering. But combine insomnia with anxiety, depression and chronic pain, and sleeplessness can become even more troubling. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), however, may be a remedy for this multi-faceted problem, says a Ryerson University professor.

Changing Sleep Patterns, Calming the Mind Key to Battling Insomnia, Depression Says Researcher

Released: 1/28/2010 12:10 PM EST
Source: Ryerson University

 — Sleepless nights. Missed work days. As anyone with insomnia will attest, the condition can lead to intense personal suffering. But combine insomnia with anxiety, depression and chronic pain, and sleeplessness can become even more troubling. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), however, may be a remedy for this multi-faceted problem, says a Ryerson University professor.

“When you have another disorder, you face unique barriers that other people do not,” says Dr. Colleen Carney, assistant professor of psychology, and director of Ryerson’s Sleep and Mood Disorder Program. “For example, a conventional insomnia strategy involves getting out of bed at the same time every day. But someone with depression may wonder, “what if I have nothing to get out of bed for?”

Carney’s latest book is Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep: Solutions to Insomnia for Those With Depression, Anxiety or Chronic Pain. The only self-help book that focuses on people with insomnia combined with other health conditions, Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep was co-authored by Dr. Rachel Manber of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

According to Statistics Canada, an estimated 3.3 million Canadians – one in every seven of us – experiences problems going to sleep and/or staying asleep. Furthermore, insomnia is a characteristic of almost all psychological diagnoses. Sleep clinics also report that insomnia patients with psychological disorders outnumber those without other conditions at a rate of nearly two to one.

Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep suggests many cognitive behavioural solutions to insomnia. Some of the tips in the book include:

* Never get into bed earlier than your usual bedtime.
* When you catch yourself “trying” to sleep, remind yourself that this is counterproductive.
* Learn about sleep myths, such as “I absolutely require eight hours of sleep to function during the day.”
* Actively challenge unhelpful beliefs that may worsen your sleeplessness, such as “Something terrible will happen to you as a result of insomnia.”
* Leave your bed and bedroom if you can’t sleep.

Previous research studies have also demonstrated that CBT offers many advantages over sleep-aid medications. Among them, CBT is a non-pharmacological treatment that is just as useful as medication (and has longer-lasting effects). CBT doesn’t carry the risks of dependency or tolerance (requiring increasing the dosage for the drug to remain effective) that are associated with medication. The technique also builds confidence in one’s ability to sleep.

CBT has also become a popular choice for the treatment of sleeplessness says Dr. Carney. Through worksheets and a structured program, Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep helps readers discover and then address the cause of their insomnia.

“For this reason, CBT makes intuitive sense to people,” says Carney. “It’s a brief treatment and, as our book proves, it can be done on a self-help basis.”

In addition to teaching at Ryerson Universtiy Carney is also president of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, an interest group on insomnia and other sleep disorders.

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Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative career-focused education, offering close to 100 PhD, master’s, and undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Arts; the Faculty of Communication & Design; the Faculty of Community Services; the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Science; and the Ted Rogers School of Management. Ryerson University has graduate and undergraduate enrolment of 25,000 students. With more than 68,000 registrations annually, The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult education.

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