Many people have brief periods of difficulty sleeping (for example, due to the current coronavirus situation), but if insomnia lasts longer or has become a regular occurrence, you should ask for help.

Non-Medical (Cognitive & Behavioural) Treatments for Insomnia

There are psychological and behavioural techniques that can be helpful for treating insomnia. Relaxation training, stimulus control, sleep restriction and cognitive behavioural therapy are some examples.

Relaxation training, or progressive muscle relaxation, teaches the person to systematically tense and relax muscles in different areas of the body. This helps to calm the body and induce sleep.

Other relaxation techniques that help many people sleep involve breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation techniques, and guided imagery. Many people listen to audio recordings to guide them in learning these techniques. They can work to help you fall asleep and also return to sleep in the middle of the night.

Stimulus controlhelps to build an association between the bedroom and sleep by limiting the type of activities allowed in the bedroom. An example of stimulus control is going to bed only when you are sleepy and getting out of bed if you’ve been awake for 20 minutes or more. This helps to break an unhealthy association between the bedroom and wakefulness. Sleep restriction involves a strict schedule of bedtimes and wake times and limits time in bed to only when a person is sleeping.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) includes behavioural changes (such as keeping a regular bedtime and wake up time, getting out of bed after being awake for 20 minutes or so, and eliminating afternoon naps) but it adds a cognitive or “thinking” component. CBT works to challenge unhealthy beliefs and fears around sleep and teach rational, positive thinking. There is a good amount of research supporting the use of CBT for insomnia. For example, in one study, patients with insomnia attended one CBT session via the internet per week for 6 weeks. After the treatment, these people had improved sleep quality.

For sleep apps see:

For digital sleep programs see: