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CBT for Insomnia

Primary Insomnia

CBT for Sleep Medicine, woman in bed with alarm clockPrimary insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by chronic (more than one month) difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting sufficient sleep. People with insomnia frequently spend hours awake in bed, will wake up during the night and have difficulty getting back to sleep, or will wake up early still feeling tired, but unable to sleep any more. Those who have Primary Insomnia also feel tired throughout the day, and can have difficulty maintaining their concentration and sense of clarity.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a behavioral therapy that treats primary insomnia. No medication is used in the course of treatment, and clients pursuing the treatment are encouraged to speak with their prescribers about reducing their use of sleep medications prior to treatment. Over the course of approximately eight weeks clients learn how to modify their sleep behavior in order to fall asleep quickly, achieve efficient, restful sleep, and prevent relapse of insomnia.

CBT-I differs from standard talk therapy in both focus and duration. It is a much shorter therapy, taking as little as eight weeks in most cases, and does not rely on insight, emotional focus, or personal history, instead spending the full duration of treatment solely on the problem of achieving efficient, restful sleep. CBT-I is evidenced in the research as being as or more effective than medications, whose efficacy is dependent on the clients continued use.

CBT-I has been shown to work even with clients who have complications to their ability to sleep such as:
Chronic Pain

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CBT-I is not a cure all for all sleep disorders, and as such the treatment process includes evaluating the clients sleep difficulties to ensure a match for the treatment. CBT-I does not treat:
Acute (less than one month) Insomnia
Parasomnias (such as sleepwalking)
Restless Leg Syndrome and other sleep related movement disorders
Jet Lag
Night Terrors
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Paradoxical Insomnia

Sleep quality after CBT-I tends to be better than sleep with sleep medications.