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Can’t Sleep? Just One Therapy Session Could Help You Sleep Better

Can't Sleep? Cure Insomnia with Just One Therapy Session, Study Finds

If you can’t sleep and are starting to feel a tad… well, unstable, all it takes to get your sanity back is one therapy sesh, say researchers.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, sometimes it can feel like the entire universe is conspiring against you: As soon as your head hits the pillow, that’s when your cat projectile vomits on your comforter. Or your neighbor decides to start a band. Or your mind obsesses over that really annoying thing that happened a million years ago. Sigh.

But don’t fret: A recent study published in the journal Sleep suggests a single therapy sesh might be all you need to get back to your snoozefests of yore. (No, but seriously.) Researchers at Northumbria University attempted to treat insomnia in the acute phase (which is when it’s not considered a legit sleep disorder yet), and found that almost three-quarters of participants saw improvements in sleep quality within three months.

Forty adults were recruited for the study, all of whom had been suffering from insomnia for less than three months, weren’t taking meds to help them sleep, and had never received cognitive behavioral therapy.

Twenty participants underwent a 60-minute cognitive behavioral therapy sesh, while the rest were put on a waitlist for therapy and served as the control group. All participants used sleep diaries to track the quality and duration of their sleep for one week before treatment, and were also asked to complete a questionnaire to help gauge the severity of their insomnia.

The therapy session educated participants on things like sleep restriction, where you only spend the time in bed necessary for sleep. They were then prescribed a specific time to go to bed and wake up based on their individual sleep diaries, and were given a self-help pamphlet to better recognize symptoms of insomnia and how to act on them. Meanwhile, the control group received no additional support.

Within one month of the therapy session, 60 percent of participants reported improvements in sleep quality, and that number increased to 73 percent after three months—compared to only a 15 percent improvement from those in the control group.

Sure, the study was small, and yes, it’s too soon to tell if those who can’t sleep can really be cured by cognitive behavioral therapy, but considering two-thirds of participants sidestepped chronic insomnia because of it, I’d say researchers are on the right track.

“There are numerous advantages to treating insomnia during an acute phase,” Jason Ellis, Director of the Northumbrian Centre for Sleep Research and lead study author said in a statement. “If successful, there’s potential for significant savings in terms of long-term healthcare, lost productivity and accidents. Chronic insomnia is a considerable health burden both on the individual and the economy and has been linked to the development of, or worsening of, a number of physical and psychiatric conditions.”

Long story short: You snooze, you win.

How do you deal when you can’t sleep?

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Sleep-deprived woman image via Shutterstock

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