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Sleep Hygiene: An Ineffective Treatment

If you have ever spoken with a medical professional about your sleep problems, it is incredibly likely that they responded with sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a pretty stupid name for a topic which, it turns out, is a pretty stupid treatment for insomnia. Let me explain.

Sleep hygiene is the name used to discuss behaviors which can affect, positively or negatively, your sleep ability and sleep quality. An example of good sleep hygiene would be sleeping in a comfortable bed in a cool, dark room. These are conditions which promote good quality sleep. An example of poor sleep hygiene would be drinking an energy drink like Red Bull two hours before you decide to go to bed. The high dose of caffeine is very likely to interfere with your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.

Sleep hygiene is the number one issue addressed on the Internet for sleep problems like insomnia and it is the number one treatment you are likely to get from your doctor. This is unfortunate because, on its own, sleep hygiene has been shown repeatedly to be ineffective. The American Psychological Association rigorously evaluates treatments and in the 2018 evaluation of therapies for insomnia again concludes that sleep hygiene is not effective. Some experts call it a “necessary but not sufficient condition.” That is, if you have lousy sleep hygiene (such as drinking those energy drinks right before you want to sleep), it’s not going to help you sleep well. Cleaning up those behaviors so that you have good sleep hygiene removes some obstacles from a good night of sleep. But good sleep behaviors are not enough on their own to address chronic insomnia.

If you have sought help for your chronic insomnia and what you were given was a list of do’s and don’ts for sleep hygiene and found this not to be helpful, I am not surprised. I want you to know that there are actually highly effective treatments– but sleep hygiene is not one of those. That said, when I work with a client to treat their insomnia, I do cover sleep hygiene. But I do it well after the recovery is underway and I do it with an eye toward removing any extra obstacles that could interfere with the better sleep my client is now getting. It is an add-on to the treatments that are doing the heavy lifting.

If you are struggling with insomnia but thought your choice was either another prescription sleep medication or another list of sleep hygiene do’s and don’ts, you may be relieved to know that I can offer you proven and effective treatments that don’t rely on either medication or sleep hygiene. CBT-I is found to be effective for 70-80% of people who utilize the therapy and my success rate with my clients is over 90%. We can get you better sleep, and your sleep is likely to improve by the second or third session. Call me at (816) 226-4678 for an appointment.

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