Despite mounting evidence that sleep is essential for mental health, few of the millions of Americans who are experiencing difficulties sleeping choose to attempt sleep therapy.
In a “do-more” culture, we’re tragically pushed to brag about how busy we are or how little sleep we get. When you combine busy schedules with caffeine, blue LEDs, ambient city noise, and a slew of other maladaptive environmental influences, it’s no surprise that one out of every three Americans is reportedly sleeping less than seven hours. 
According to one study, insufficient sleep costs the United States $411 billion every year.  More significantly, not sleeping enough puts our health at risk.
A good night’s sleep is essential for the normal functioning of your immune system, memory, microbiota, emotional calibration, and logical decision-making.
Many people seek relief from their sleep problems by using sleeping medications, however, the problem with pills is that they simply depress the cortex rather than offering natural biological slumber. In other words, medicines just increase the quantity of time you spend unconscious, not the quality of your sleep.
Just like alcohol can make you sleepy while robbing you of your essential REM sleep, medications should not be your go-to solution for getting more shut-eye.
Why Is Sleep so Important?
“The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.” – Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep
In our fast-paced modern lifestyles, we often ignore the need for sleep. Even microorganisms have a circadian cycle of activity, so the fact that evolution couldn’t develop an organism without it should tell us how crucial sleep is for human health.
Sleep has been demonstrated to improve our creativity, happiness, attractiveness, slimming, anxiety, and disease resistance. It also reduces the danger of heart attacks, improves memory, and extends our lives.
Given our growing awareness of the importance of sleep, it’s no surprise that sports teams, like Manchester United, have begun to hire “sleep coaches” to ensure that their players get the best possible night’s sleep.
These coaches accompany the team around the facility, ensuring that air quality, lighting, mattress firmness, and a variety of other aspects are maximized for the best night’s sleep possible.
Professional athletes not only have an advantage over their competition when it comes to sleep, but it may also provide you with a lot more mental clarity throughout the day.
So, if you’re sluggish in the mornings, lethargic throughout the day, or simply not getting enough ei, it’s time to see a doctor.
Luckily, there are effective sleep therapy techniques that can help even the most restless sleepers get more shuteye.
1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI)
CBT is the most often used sleep therapy method, and it has been demonstrated to be successful in many individuals after only 5 to 8 weeks of treatment.
CBT focuses on changing negative thought and behavior patterns. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s likely that a mental pattern, such as excessive stress or anxiety, is contributing to the problem.
In a nutshell, the CBT method entails detecting and challenging harmful thoughts and beliefs, as well as building a more beneficial way of thinking.
Many people who have had trouble sleeping in the past start fretting and catastrophizing about their inability to sleep, which exacerbates the problem in a snowball effect.
Patients can use CBT to break free from this detrimental pattern and develop a better relationship with their own minds.
In what is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Sleeplessness, this strategy is more precisely applied to insomnia (CBTI).
2. Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT)
The purpose of this treatment is to reduce the amount of time the patient spends in bed not sleeping, thereby strengthening the link between bedtime and true sleep.
SRT, which was created by renowned psychologist Arthur Spielman, follows a rigid plan for gradually increasing the amount of time you can spend in bed. You begin by calculating the average amount of time spent sleeping each night.
Assume you go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m., but you only get five hours of sleep. Start with 6 hours of rest, such as going to bed at 11 p.m. and waking up at 5 a.m.
Then you progressively increase your sleep by 15 minutes or half an hour each week until you’re sleeping a healthy amount. There are various variations on this method, and you should get more information from a sleep doctor or therapist.
The most effective sleep hygiene technique has been proven to be SRT. The disadvantage is that it isn’t a rapid fix. Reconditioning your sleep schedule and seeing results, takes weeks of dedication.
3. Meditation/Yoga Nidra
Meditation can also be used as a form of sleep therapy. Mindfulness, a state of mind achieved through meditation, has been defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as,
“the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”
Meditators can quiet down and prepare their minds for sleep by learning to observe and experience their thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging them.
In what is known as introspective metacognitive awareness, mindfulness meditation allows people to shed a light on their inner mental programs.
You can improve your relationship with your thoughts, reduce anxiety, and resolve a variety of other mental issues that may be keeping you awake at night.
Yoga Nidra is a type of Vedic meditation that is particularly effective at lulling you to sleep.  Breathing deeply, setting a goal, shifting one’s awareness throughout the body (which tires out the somatomotor parts of the brain that interpret sensory information), and counting backward are all part of the exercise.
Depending on the set of instructions, the practice may also include visualizations. Yoga Nidra has been performed for thousands of years and is helpful in turning off the “narrating mind,” the inner voice that won’t go away when you’re trying to sleep. It’s beneficial to listen to music while doing Yoga Nidra, especially at the beginning phases.
Hypnotic treatments induce a relaxed and suggestible condition in which patients’ thoughts and beliefs can be easily changed. Hypnosis may be a good alternative for those who are unable to change their damaging negative thought loops utilizing CBT.
Subtle suggestions to “relax,” “let go,” and other trigger words are used by the hypnotherapist. While the rational CEO of your brain, the neocortex, is mostly responsible for ruminating and other thinking processes that keep you awake, hypnosis allows the hypnotherapist to enter your subconscious mind and plant code that will help you go asleep faster.
5. Breathing Exercises
Breathing has a direct impact on your autonomic nervous system, which therefore has an impact on your brain activity. Breathing is a rapid way to put the brakes on an overactive “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system, which is sometimes linked to difficulty sleeping.
Your mind-body system is influenced by various characteristics of your breath. Here are three key features of a soothing breath that can have an instant impact on your mental state:
Breathe smoothly: is the polar opposite of jerky, staccato breathing. Instead, you want a continuous flow of breath entering and exiting your lungs between pauses.
Breathe rhythmically: It’s crucial that your breath has a consistent inhale-to-exhale ratio. To help you relax, even more, consider exhaling for longer than inhaling in a set ratio of 4:6. Inhale for four seconds before exhaling for six seconds.
When practicing, using a metronome to find a beat can be beneficial initially (free phone apps are available).
Breathe into your belly: Inhale deeply into your stomach: “Belly breathing” makes use of your entire diaphragm and guarantees that your lungs are used to their utmost potential.
Simply observe how a newborn breathes normally to witness appropriate diaphragmatic breathing. All three characteristics of breathwork activate the parasympathetic nervous system’s “rest and digest” mode.
Bonus Sleep Tips
You could also attempt the following sleep hygiene strategies to improve your sleep:
- Every day, I go to bed and wake up at the same hour.
- Make your room as dark as possible and keep the temperature low.
- If you’re not sleeping, stay away from your bed.
- Before going to bed, don’t eat or exercise.
- Before going to bed, take a hot shower.
- Getting some sun first thing in the morning
- Before going to bed, write down your thoughts in a journal or read a book.
- After 3 p.m., avoid naps.
- Avoiding the use of alcoholic beverages, smoke, caffeine, and other drugs
- Using a blue light filter like f.lux or dimming house lights and turning off electronic screens two hours before night.
- If you live in a noisy environment, consider utilising a white noise machine.
If problems persist after implementing these changes, it might be worth contacting a professional sleep physician or specialist to improve your sleep.
The Bottom Line
Sleep isn’t just a “workaround,” it’s a requirement. While people spend billions on vitamins, workout machines, and diet books, there is one area where everyone can improve for free.
If there’s one area of our lives that we don’t pay enough attention to, it’s the third of our lives (if you’re lucky!) spent slumbering on pillows, in my opinion.
After reading this essay, you will have all of the skills you need to improve your sleep and, in turn, improve the quality of your waking hours.
2. Rand: Sleep Report
3. The Lancet: Sleep-Deprived Versus Rested Surgeons
4. Kaiser Permanente: Sleep Restriction Therapy
5. Front Behav Neurosci.: Into the Moment
6. Yoga International: 5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra