Insomnia and other disorders

Insomnia is linked to a number of physical and mental health disorders and substance abuse. Ongoing lack of sleep increases your risk of illness and infection, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Some medications also can contribute to insomnia.

If you have a condition or medication that's linked to insomnia, talk to your doctor about how best to manage these along with sleep problems. Insomnia is unlikely to get better without treatment.

Finding help

There are a limited number of certified Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialists, and you may not live near a practitioner. You may have to do some searching to find a trained practitioner and a treatment schedule and type that fit your needs. Here are some places to look:

  • The American Academy of Sleep Medicine website allows you to search for a certified sleep center, such as the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine, when you click on Patient Health Information.
  • The Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine offers a directory for finding a Behavioral Sleep Medicine provider.
  • The National Sleep Foundation website offers information about finding a sleep professional. Many are associated with major hospitals.
  • The American Board of Sleep Medicine offers information about Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialists on its website.

The type of treatment — such as group versus individual — and frequency of sessions can vary, depending on whom you see. You may need as few as two sessions or as many as eight or more sessions, depending on your sleep expert, the program and your progress.

When calling to set up an appointment, ask the practitioner about his or her approach and what to expect. It's also a good idea to check ahead of time whether your health insurance will cover the type of treatment you need.

Books, CDs or websites on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and insomnia may be beneficial, but they can't replace meeting with a sleep medicine specialist in person.

Who can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia?

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can benefit nearly anyone with sleep problems. For example, the therapy can help older adults who have been taking sleep medications for years, people with physical problems such as chronic pain and those with primary insomnia. What's more, the effects seem to last. There is no evidence that CBT-I has negative side effects.

CBT-I requires steady practice, and some approaches may cause you to lose sleep at first. But stick with it, and you'll likely see lasting results.

Feb. 11, 2014 See more In-depth