Do you have trouble falling asleep most nights? Insomnia, difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep, is the most common sleep disorder. Around a third of all adults report experiencing insomnia, with higher rates among women and the elderly. Insomnia can affect someone for any length of time, from a few days to multiple years. Lack of sleep can lead to a variety of negative consequences, ranging from irritable mood and inability to concentrate to, in extreme cases, reduced life expectancy and increased risk of a variety of serious health problems. Looking for ways to improve your sleep is important.
There are many possible contributing causes of insomnia. While causes may include medical factors such as medical conditions or side effects from medications, there are almost always behavioral or psychological factors involved such as poor sleep hygiene, dysregulation due to shift changes (particularly among people who often work a night shift), stress, and anxiety. While it’s a good idea to discuss your insomnia with your doctor no matter what seem to be the contributing causes, there are also tools you can use on your own to work on any behavioral and psychological factors that may be contributing to your sleep difficulties.
Research demonstrates that practicing relaxation techniques at bedtime can significantly improve sleep for insomniacs, whether their sleep difficulties result from a combination of medical/physical and behavioral/psychological factors or whether they were caused by behavioral/psychological factors alone. If you are not in the habit of practicing relaxation techniques, there are quite a few smartphone apps currently available to help guide you through them. The apps include a variety of techniques such as guided imagery, breathing exercises, and mindfulness meditation. Some of the apps are intended for general relaxation, but many of them have specific tracks intended to help the user fall asleep easily.
Another evidence-based treatment for insomnia is a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy known as CBTi (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia). CBTi includes a combination of elements such as sleep education and cognitive therapy to address psychological factors contributing to insomnia. This treatment is usually delivered over the course of six to eight weeks by a sleep therapist or other trained mental health practitioner or healthcare provider. However, certain smartphone apps have been developed that are able to provide a form of CBTi that can be effective in treating insomnia even without the interaction of a therapist. As long as you are motivated to follow the guidance of the app on your own, it can be just as effective in treating your sleep problems as participating in traditional CBTi with a therapist.
There are an abundance of new mental health-focused smartphone apps on the market. Some are targeted at specific mental health issues, such as anxiety. Others are intended to help the user with general stress management. If your concern is difficulty sleeping, you have the choice of either a general relaxation app, which may include particular techniques aimed at helping you sleep, or a specifically targeted app for CBTi. While it’s always a good idea to discuss any sleep disorders with your doctor, you can use these apps to be proactive in addressing your sleep issues on your own.