How Can You Treat Sleep Disorders with Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy?

Topics: sleep apnea symptoms, sleep disorder

Rest and good eating habits are two pillars of a healthy life. But, a good night's sleep does not come easily to people. As a result, many individuals rely on sleeping pills or over-the-countertop meds to gain quality rest. However, it is not ideal as sleep medication does not cure or address the root of the problem. It is just a temporary fix. Also, relying on medication to sleep peacefully through the night can lead to dependence and lower tolerance levels. Thus, it is better to choose CBT therapy over sleeping pills.

Treat Sleep Disorders with Cogni.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) improves your sleep by changing your behaviour and thinking process. It aims to enhance your relaxation skills and lifestyle habits to promote a good night's rest. Another reason it is preferred over medication is that therapy relaxes your mind, alters your habits, and improves your daytime routine. Here is some additional information for those interested in finding out more about how CBT fixes sleep disorders and sets you up for quality rest at night. Have a glance!

What defines a sleep disorder?

Sleep disorder is a condition that impacts your ability to rest at night. It can leave you feeling exhausted and tired and influence your daily productivity. In most cases, a sleep disorder is either a result of poor emotional health or responsible for triggering imbalance. A few common rest problems that impact your physical, psychological, and emotional health include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

What is cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behaviour therapy is a program that helps in identifying and replacing thoughts and behaviours that result in poor sleep. Patients are treated in a CBT program individually or in a group. The sessions can take place offline or online, and the therapy is usually customised to aid quick recovery. The length of a CBT program varies according to the type and severity of the problem, but you should know that no immediate relief or cure is promised. Instead, the treatment works slowly and steadily, and the results become evident over time.

How does CBT treat sleep disorders?

CBT is a reliable treatment option for sleep problems. It addresses negative thoughts and behaviour patterns that contribute to poor quality sleep. Here are two main components of cognitive behaviour therapy:

1. Cognitive therapy: This part of therapy aims to alter the negative beliefs and thoughts that are responsible for your sleep difficulties.

2. Behavioural therapy: It replaces behaviours that cause you to toss and turn in your bed and substitutes them with good sleep habits.

Cognitive therapy used in CBT explained

You may have heard the phrase, changing the way you think can change the world. It is what cognitive therapy aims for. It challenges the negative thinking patterns that might be contributing to your sleep issues and replaces them with powerful, positive, and realistic thoughts. It mainly consists of three steps:

1. Identifying negative ideas: In this step, you need to recognise the convictions acting as obstacles in gaining a good night's sleep and see them for what they really are. It means understanding that you give more than necessary importance to your inappropriate thinking patterns. For example, people need to see that the idea that you need to take sleeping pills to doze off and feeling anxious until you do it is incorrect.

 2. Challenging these thoughts: Here, you are responsible for challenging your negative convictions. You will evaluate and question how accurate are your sleep-disrupting thoughts. For this, you have to gather evidence for your thoughts, analyse wrong beliefs, and test the reality.

3. Replace these beliefs: In this stage, your therapist will ask you to replace your negative perceptions with new and positive thoughts. You will also need to list a few realistic and calming statements that help you fall asleep.

Behavioural therapy used in CBT explained

CBT doesn't only change your thinking pattern but aims to alter your habits and behaviours. It encourages you to substitute the acts that prevent you from gaining a restful night of sleep for good rest habits. Depending on the symptoms, your therapist may suggest you the following techniques:

1. Sleep restriction therapy: In this step, you are encouraged to spend less time awake in your bed by eliminating daytime naps and going to rest later than usual. It makes you more exhausted the next night and effectively treats insomnia. Furthermore, it strengthens the association between bed and sleep.

2. Sleep environment and sleep hygiene: You need to have a comfortable sleep environment for resting peacefully. For this, your therapist will encourage you to get blackout shades, a sound machine, an eye mask, and dodow. For maintaining sleep hygiene, you will be asked to improve your daytime routine, like avoiding nicotine or watching TV late at night.

3. Stimulus control therapy: For this step, your therapist will ask you to use your bed only for its purpose. You will be encouraged to use it only for sex and sleep and avoid watching TV or working in bed. It will also aid in maintaining consistent sleep-wake time.

4. Relaxation technique: Some people cannot rest well because they get anxious as soon as the nighttime approaches. Your therapist will recommend you learn relaxation techniques like mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation for this purpose.

5. Hypnosis: Therapists use hypnosis to treat rest problems. When people are in a deep sleep, these therapeutic techniques change their negative thought patterns and poor sleep habits to promote a good night's rest.

6. Staying passively awake: The technique plays at the paradoxical intention. Since worrying about rest may keep you awake at night thus, you are asked to let go of the worry and not make any efforts to sleep. It helps you sleep better.

How to make therapy work?

To sleep better, you need to find the right therapist. Someone you can trust and talk to. For sleeping better and making CBT work for you, following steps like adding more physical activity to your schedule, reducing anxiety levels, and wisely choosing what to eat are recommended.


For treating sleep disorders, cognitive-behavioural therapy is one of the best alternatives. It aims to identify and change thinking patterns and behaviours that promote poor sleep quality. The treatment process is better than sleeping pills as it impacts the root cause of sleep problems.


Disclaimer: The facts and information contained in this article are obtained from reputed medical research organisations and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & beliefs of ResMed. The solutions mentioned above are only suggestive remedies for treating sleep problems and should not be taken as medical advice. The content is meant only for informational purposes. So, the readers are advised to practice caution and consult a healthcare professional before pursuing any solution.

Related topics


Fill the form today to book your sleep consultation.

I want to know about:*

I am over 18 years of age, have read and accepted ResMed’ s Privacy Notice and Terms of Use, am aware that my personal data will be processed for the purposes outlined in these documents.

Thanks for submitting the form.