Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treating Insomnia in Older Adults

More often than not, the incidence of insomnia is attributed to conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress. But in general, insomnia can happen to people irrespective of their age and gender. The rising demands of modern lifestyle and increasing stresses of professional and personal lives have plunged people into long, sleepless nights. The issue needs to be addressed soon so as to keep negative effects of insomnia at bay.

Insomnia is a persistent problem in older adults. Research has shown that between 40 percent and 60 percent of Americans over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia. It is not uncommon for such people to develop insomnia as a result of aging. But this presumption does not hold true always. There may be several underlying reasons behind the onset of insomnia in adults. But the good news for them is there is help.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and insomnia treatment

Traditionally, insomnia is treated with the help of prescription drugs, which do more harm than good in the long run. Although these treatment options alleviate the symptoms of insomnia to a great extent, they fail to address the root cause of the condition.

Enter cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a treatment option based on model depicting the relationship among cognition, behavior, and emotion. CBT has become a preferred option for treating several psychological conditions because it digs deeper into their root causes. Psychologists around the world are considering this option for alleviating symptoms of insomnia in older adults.

There are several clinics providing CBT in Toronto. The primary aim of CBT is to change people’s thought process for changing their behavior. A person going through CBT can learn to identify subconscious thoughts, question them, replace them with more realistic and healthier thoughts and use fresh thought patterns to alter behavior. In case of insomnia in older adults, CBT aims to train participants to inculcate healthy sleep patterns by identifying and replacing problematic patterns.

Researchers divided male veterans in the age range of 60 and 90 years into three groups. Two groups received cognitive behavioral therapy from qualified and expert sleep coaches; the first group received CBT in a group setting, while the second group received one-to-one training. However, the third group was given education on sleep. The duration of CBT for all three groups was the same- five sessions over a period of six weeks.

The results revealed that CBT in both individual and group setting showed positive improvements in the sleep cycle of participants. Participants who received CBT fell asleep 23 minutes earlier and their total wake time at night reduced significantly by 68 minutes. Although the results of the experiment cannot be extended to female veterans completely, they however established the benefits of CBT in treating insomnia in older adults.

CBT is better than addictive prescription drugs used traditionally to treat insomnia. In fact, CBT is the most recommended non-medication approach for treating chronic insomnia in older adults. It addresses the underlying causes of insomnia in older people and seeks to improve the overall quality of their sleep.