Sleep Disorders: Lifestyle and Behavioral Treatments

Sleep disorders collectively refer to conditions that interfere with the normal sleep patterns of individuals on a regular basis. Sleep disorders are of various types and left untreated, can adversely affect the physical, mental and emotional health of the patient.

Treatment for sleep disorders depends on the underlying cause but usually involves a combination of medical and behavioral treatments. In fact, lifestyle and behavioral treatments can alleviate the condition largely.

Lifestyle and behavioral treatments for sleep disorders include the following:

Cognitive Therapy – Cognitive therapy for insomnia aims to identify and treat thoughts and habits contributing to insomnia. This behavioral therapy involves educating patients about sleep so that the misconceptions regarding sleep can be busted. The therapists discuss sleep information with patients and help them dispel myths about sleeping that can alleviate the underlying cause of insomnia.

Stimulus Control (SC) – Stimulus control is a therapy that encourages the patient to associate their bedroom with only sleep and sex. The bedroom being associated with other stimulating factors can interfere with sleep. The therapist encourages the patients to go to bed at the same time every night and limit using the bed only for sleeping and sex.

Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) – SRT involves restricting the time you spend in bed by discouraging naps. The patient is asked to stay awake beyond bedtime and only allowed to hit the bed for sleeping. The aim is to minimize the idle time spent in bed. The therapy is especially effective because it helps the patient reconnect bed with sleep and not with lying awake.

Relaxation Training – Relaxation training, if practiced regularly, can help patients relax at night and prepare for a good night’s sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, muscle relaxation and deep breathing relieves anxiety and prepares the mind and body for sleep. Relaxation training is helpful for patients who find it difficult to fall asleep at night. It also includes techniques such as guided imagery and hypnotism.

Sleep HygieneSleep hygiene refers to the environment that is important for getting sleep. It also includes factors and habits that precede sleep. Patients are advised to maintain utmost sleep hygiene by limiting stimulating activities such as watching television, spending time on the computer or exposure to bright lights few hours before bedtime. The intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol must also be limited as these substances affect the quality of sleep. Patients must take up some relaxing activity before bedtime to break the connection between stress and sleep. Reading a light book, listening to calm music or taking a bath are all good practices to follow before falling asleep. Avoid using your mobile phone or iPad before falling asleep.

Sound sleep is important for the body to function properly. If you find yourself grappling with sleep issues, it is important to seek therapy to alleviate the issue. While the treatment may last long and make you feel frustrated at times, remember that the results will benefit you enormously in the long run.