Does Sleep Therapy Actually Work?

Man sitting on a couch and talking with a sleep therapist

We’ve all experienced the occasional bad night’s sleep when we’ve got something big on the brain. Maybe it’s a job interview in the morning. Or perhaps you’ve just had a fight with a friend. It could be that you just can’t remember if you locked the front door and you don’t feel like wandering downstairs to check – problems feel bigger when you’re exhausted.

Sleep and mental health often go hand-in-hand. Just as your anxiety over that job interview can affect your sleep, a poor night’s sleep can cause heightened anxiety when you wake up in the morning. And the same is true for a host of other mental health issues.

Most people are on board with the idea that an effective treatment for mental health struggles is therapy. But what if it worked the other way around, too?

Sleep therapy is gaining popularity as a treatment for sleep disorders, mental health disorders and even physical ailments. But ... is sleep therapy truly an effective treatment for sleep apnea, insomnia and other sleep disorders? Will it work for you? Here's everything you need to know.

What Is Sleep Therapy? 

Sleep therapy has a pretty broad definition. It includes any method designed to help an individual overcome barriers to sleep or improve the quality of sleep they are getting. It can be as simple as stress-reducing activities like journaling, to utilizing reverse psychology and actually avoiding sleep.

At its most basic level, sleep therapy means emphasizing the use of different actions to improve sleep. But, it can also be more advanced, combining these strategies with the exploration of mental health barriers to good sleep – similar to what one would expect in traditional therapy.

What Sleep Problems Is Sleep Therapy Best for? 

Woman sitting up in bed at night, unable to sleepWoman sitting up in bed at night, unable to sleep

Sleep therapy can be an effective treatment for a range of different medical conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse

The primary condition that sleep therapy is used to treat is insomnia, specifically chronic insomnia. For those who have tried multiple remedies for lack of sleep including stress reduction and other lifestyle adjustments, sleep therapy is usually the next step in treatment.

CBT-I and Other Sleep Therapies 

The type of treatment at the forefront of the sleep-therapy world is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I. Usually recommended as the first line of treatment for those with chronic insomnia, CBT-I is an effective insomnia treatment that explores the connection between thoughts, action and sleep. Treatment involves identifying thoughts, emotions and behaviors that may be contributing to insomnia.

Of course, there are other forms of sleep therapy as well. For example:

  • Sleep Hygiene Education (SHE) focuses on sleep-promoting behaviors
  • Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) limits insomnia-contributing behaviors
  • Stimulus Control Therapy (SCT) limits sleep-preventing behaviors and encourages sleeping only when tired
  • Relaxation Therapy helps the body to wind down and manage anxiety
Sleep therapist taking notes during a CBT-I sessionSleep therapist taking notes during a CBT-I session

Sleep Therapy vs. Sleeping Pills 

But wouldn’t it be easier to just take medication for sleep problems? It’s true, sleep medications can be an easy and effective short-term treatment. If you are going through a period of grief or high stress, sleep medications can cause immediate relief. There are even a few newer sleeping medications that have been approved for longer use … but they still might not be the best course of treatment for long-term insomnia.

Sleep therapy can be a better treatment choice for those with chronic sleep problems, for those wary of becoming dependent on medications or for those who find sleep medications ineffective, or not worth the associated side effects.

Unlike pills that treat the symptoms, sleep therapy often addresses the root causes of insomnia. Not only is it a more sustainable long-term treatment, but it has more potential long-term benefits, as well. Just remember that it requires effort and time.

Sleep Environment Tips to Promote Better Sleep 

Couple putting fresh bedding on a clean organic mattressCouple putting fresh bedding on a clean organic mattress

Whether you’re undergoing sleep therapy to treat insomnia, you’re not sure if that’s the right move for you or you just want to ensure you’re getting quality, restorative sleep, practicing good sleep hygiene is a great habit to be in.

At Naturepedic, we know that a big part of practicing proper sleep hygiene is honing your sleep environment. Here are our top tips on how to do just that.

Turn the Lights Out 

Don’t be afraid of the dark! A natural part of your body’s programming is that daylight = waking hours. Because of this, light ­– natural OR artificial – can make it harder to sleep. Avoiding using night lights, turning off any lamps, purchasing blackout curtains or blinds, and sleeping with your cellphone face down can help to reduce unnecessary light and promote sleep.

Keep it Cool 

Your body’s temperature decreases as it prepares for slumber. Keeping your room at a cool temperature – somewhere around 65° – helps your body to cool down, wind down and go to sleep.

You’ll also want to avoid heat-trapping materials in your bedding and mattress that can make you hot and sweaty and work against sleep. Minimize synthetic fibers and petroleum-based materials like polyurethane, including memory foam. Instead, opt for natural fibers like certified organic cotton and wool, which are naturally breathable.

Invest in High-Quality, Organic Bedding 

You’re not going to get a good night’s sleep if you’re not comfortable – that’s a fact. Don’t underestimate the positive effect that high-quality, certified-organic bedding can have on your sleep.

Naturepedic offers a line of 100% GOTS certified organic mattresses that are luxuriously comfortable and made from Mother Nature’s best, softest and most breathable materials: organic cotton, wool and latex. Not to mention the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are keeping toxic chemicals out of your sleep environment, protecting your health and protecting the environment.

Learn more about organic, healthy sleep for adults, and start your journey to better sleep.