Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A New Drug-Free Sleep Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A New Drug-Free Sleep Therapy

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What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated the effectiveness of a non-drug therapy for sleep, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Western medicine has focused on drug or sedative therapy for all forms of insomnia for years with limited success.

While drugs like Ambien are the gold standard for helping people sleep, they come with some pretty severe side effects, such as drowsinessdizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, “drugged” feeling, loss of coordination, stuffy nose, dry mouth, sore throat, nauseaconstipationdiarrhea, stomach upset, headache, or muscle pain. (3)

Most recently, the FDA has reported more serious side effects, like driving, eating, cooking, talking on the phone and having sex — all while sound asleep — with no recollection of the activity. (2)

Clearly the need for a drugless sleep therapy has never been greater. CBT for insomnia is a series of counseling sessions that address some very basic issues that typically surround the sleep habits of individuals with insomnia. (1)

During Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, patients are instructed to change their sleep habits, as well as their daytime habits. They change their unproductive sleep schedules and modify their beliefs and expectations around a good night’s sleep. They are also taught cognitive and behavioral skills that all tolled up to a whopping 70% to 80% improvement in sleep, often without any medications. (1)

The researchers are quick to point out that the patients will, more often than not, feel worse initially, and persistence of at least 6 sessions with follow-up as needed is key to the success of CBT.

Behavior Sleep Therapies Are Not New — But Very Welcome


This is a ground-breaking therapy that researchers are encouraging insurance companies to allow reimbursement for. Currently, CBT practitioners are not found in huge numbers, and they are calling for more CBT training. This may be the future to the insomnia epidemic that plagues the US population.

Ayurveda, which first and foremost is a lifestyle behavioral system of medicine, has much to say on this issue. Let’s review some of the simple Ayurvedic behavioral and lifestyle approaches to better sleep.

  1. Take out a kind and uplifting, non-stimulating book at 8:30 or 9:00 PM and begin to read. By 9:30 or 10 PM, you will likely get sleepy. Do not get up — turn the light out and go to sleep.
  2. Get up when your eyes naturally open without an alarm. Even if it is 5:06 AM — get out of bed.
  3. Meditate at least twice a day for 15-20 minutes in the morning and around sunset. You can also meditate at night if sleep is interrupted. >>> See my Meditation eCourse, The Transformational Awareness Technique
  4. Eat a bigger and more relaxing lunch and have a light and early supper. It is difficult to sleep on a full stomach. Take sugar and processed foods out of the diet.
  5. Stay hydrated during the day, but don’t drink after supper, as waking up to urinate is common and disturbing.
  6. Make peace with your family before bed — never go to bed while angry or stressed. Try to resolve issues before bed.
  7. Take a hot bath and give yourself a warm oil massage while bathing or showering before bed. >>> Learn how to do self-massage (abhyanga) here
  8. Drink a cup of hot milk before bed. Add a pinch of: ghee, coconut, almonds, saffron, turmeric, ginger and dates. >>> See my formula, Ojas Nightly Tonic
  9. Create a peaceful setting for sleep. Take the TV and computer out of the bedroom and make sure the room is dark.
  10. Remove environmental disturbances. Turn off all the Wi-Fi signal in the house, including cell phones.

Note: Like the study showed — these are not instant cures, but a modification of behavior that, in time, changes and re-balances physiological function. So, be patient!



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Dr. John

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