This Science-Backed Treatment Is the "Single Best Cure" for Insomnia

Updated 09/22/17

If the lotions, supplements, pills, and eye masks are any indication, people who struggle with insomnia will go to extreme lengths to clock even a few short hours of sleep. But as Vogue reports, there's one overlooked solution that's arguably more effective than melatonin, white noise machines, weighted blankets, and the like.

"A non-addictive, healthy bedtime fix already exists," writes the magazine. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) [has] been shown to help 70% to 80% of people with the disorder, which is diagnosed after enduring broken, irregular, or inadequate sleeping habits at least three times a week."

They mention that, although the American College of Physicians believes that CBT-I should be the "first line of defense against sleep issues," Ambien subscriptions and melatonin supplements are subscribed with abandon. "The majority of people are being treated badly by their general practitioner," adds Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. "There's little evidence that pills work, but the science behind the effectiveness of CBT-I is crystal clear."

So how does CBT-I work? Similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, it's a "structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep," reads the Mayo Clinic website. In other words, rather than sedating yourself, you're addressing the root of the problem: The thoughts and behaviors that are keeping you awake.

One of the key tenets of CBT-I is recalibrating the link between bed and sleep. If you spend eight hours in bed, sleeping for four and tossing and turning, overanalyzing, reading, or working for the other four, for example, your mind no longer associates your bed with sleeping. They suggest reserving your bed for sleep only, even if you're only in bed for five hours. This so-called sleep restriction therapy is a "natural way to build up your appetite for rest," and works for most patients after just seven to 10 days (or six to eight CBT-I sessions).

Finally, opting for a relaxing activity outside of the bedroom if you can't fall asleep and thinking happy thoughts before bed will also help break the insomnia cycle. "Relaxation practices like meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing are a great way to get to a happier place—in your mind, body, and bed," they conclude.

Try finding a CBT-I specialist in your area for more information, or consider downloading an app like Shuti or Sleepio to try it at home yourself.

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