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CBT for Insomnia

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Ken Cosby M.D.
Reviewer

Ken Cosby M.D.

Dr. Ken Cosby received his medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine (Washington, DC) and completed his research post-doc work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health including the National Heart Lung Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.

March 29, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

CBT for Insomnia: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Sleep Problems

Millions of people struggle with insomnia, and medication is not always the right answer for everybody. Luckily, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help.

Read on to find out more about CBT for insomnia, including how CBT works and if you can do CBT for insomnia online.

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What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Insomnia?

While many people turn to medication first, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is equally or more effective than sleep medications, without the side effects. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps you identify behaviors and thoughts that contribute to your sleep problems and replace them with habits that promote good sleep.

How Does CBT for Insomnia Work?

There are two main components of CBT for insomnia

  • The cognitive aspect of CBT focuses on teaching you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep, such as worries and negative thoughts that keep you awake at night.
  • The behavioral aspect of CBT focuses on developing good sleep habits and avoiding behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well.

Who Can Benefit From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?

Almost anyone who is willing to put in the work can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Unlike medications, CBT doesn’t work passively to help you sleep. CBT for insomnia does require some effort on your part to change your thoughts and behaviors. 

However, CBT for insomnia may be effective for people who put in the effort and follow their therapist’s advice. Some people may see results after as few as two appointments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Advantages of CBT for Insomnia?

The biggest advantage of CBT for insomnia is that it does not have any of the same risks as medication. There is no risk of having side effects or becoming addicted, and it is truly safe.

Another advantage of CBT for insomnia is that it gives you tools to help you sleep better for the rest of your life. It is not just a temporary fix for your sleeping problems. Instead, it may help you overcome your insomnia for good, as long as you keep practicing the techniques you learn.

How Long Does it Take for CBT to Work for Insomnia?

Some people experience significant improvements in the quantity and quality of their sleep after only two therapy sessions. Most people improve after four to six sessions, but some might need more.

What Procedures Are Used in CBT for Insomnia?

CBT for insomnia involves many different techniques. Here are some of the most common:

  • Stimulus control therapy for insomnia is about tackling issues that may prevent you from getting good sleep. You may be encouraged to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, avoid taking naps, and get up if you do not fall asleep within 20 minutes.
  • Sleep hygiene involves changing basic lifestyle habits that influence sleep. You might be advised to avoid caffeine too close to bedtime, quit smoking, get more exercise, or cut back on how much alcohol you drink.
  • Sleep environment improvement is all about creating the best sleep environment by doing things like hiding your clock from view; not having a TV in your bedroom; and keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.
  • Relaxation training involves learning how to calm your mind and body through things like meditation, muscle relaxation, and imagery.
  • Sleep restriction tackles the bad habit of lying in bed awake. It reduces how much time you spend in bed, which causes partial sleep deprivation and makes you more tired the next night. Once your sleep has improved, you gradually spend more time in bed.
  • Remaining passively awake means avoiding any effort to fall asleep. Sometimes, worrying about not sleeping keeps you awake, so deciding not to worry about it can help you sleep.

Can I Do CBT for Insomnia Online?

Yes! Research suggests that CBT for insomnia is just as effective online as it is in person. A qualified licensed therapist should be able to guide you through CBT just as well through a video appointment as they would if you were there in person.


Read: Online Mental Health Services


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Get CBT for Insomnia Online

Don’t deal with the hassle of going into a therapist’s office for CBT. At PlushCare, you can get CBT for insomnia online. Our licensed professional therapists are well-qualified to help you with insomnia or factors that contribute to insomnia, such as depression and anxiety.

You can find out if PlushCare online therapy is available in your state here. For help with insomnia and other challenges, book an online therapy appointment today.


Read More About CBT for Insomnia


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

National Institutes of Health. CBT for Insomnia in Patients with High and Low Depressive Symptom Severity: Adherence and Clinical Outcomes. Accessed on February 10, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3227711/

National Institutes of Health. Efficacy of digital CBT for insomnia to reduce depression across demographic groups: a randomized trial. Accessed on February 10, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7050476/

Mayo Clinic. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills. Accessed on February 10, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677

Stanford Health Care. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. Accessed on February 10, 2021 at https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/c/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-insomnia/procedures.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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