Christina Bell | registered psychologist in Edmonton Alberta | anxiety

Many experts have argued that sleep is one of the most important determinants of health, but it commonly falls to the bottom of the list. A lack of sleep is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body, which can contribute to immune system dysfunction and negative mood. Even couples express themselves with more hostility when sleep deprived.  

 Insomnia is characterized by difficulties falling and/or staying asleep. Some of the criteria include:

  • Getting less that 6 hours of sleep 3 or more nights per week (> 6 months)

  • Waking up more than 3 times per night (for a combined total of more than 1 hour)

  • Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep

In addition to experiencing one or more of the criteria, insomnia also involves significant impairment in mood or daytime functioning (e.g., drowsiness). Some people naturally need less sleep and may not suffering with insomnia even though they get less than six hours of sleep.

In Canada and the United States, approximately 10% of people meet the criteria for a diagnosis of chronic insomnia (> 6 months), and about one-third of Americans reported getting less than six hours of sleep per night (recommended amount is seven).

Although sleep medications can be beneficial in the short-term, their long-term use has been associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and early death. In order to successfully improve sleep long-term, I use techniques from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia

(CBT-I) developed by Gregg Jacobs. A 2015 meta-analysis found that CBT-I was an effective and long-term treatment for chronic insomnia, resulting in better sleep quality and improved mood.

 In Jacobs’ research on CBT-I, he found that 75% of participants experienced a marked improvement in their sleep within six weeks. This makes CBT-I a shorter-term treatment for therapy, typically lasting 3-6 sessions.  

The typical outline of a treatment plan for sleep improvement involves:

1. Assessment: In the first session, we will assess your sleep habits, which includes the completion of a sleep diary. Clients are also encouraged to see their physician to assess for physical issues and other medical conditions that may be contributing to sleep deprivation.

2. Treatment: Together we create a personalized plan to improve sleep. Some of the components of the program include: Sleep education, sleep hygiene, cognitive restructuring (changing beliefs around sleep), relaxation training and sleep restriction. This stage can be hard work but the benefits are worth it!  

3. Integration: Continual adjustments will be made until there is a creation of a sustainable sleep routine. At this point we usually space out sessions to give the person time in between sessions to practice what they’ve learned.

I can help you to:

  • Understand the main reasons you are struggling with sleep

  • Develop a plan to improve your sleep quality, based on strategies that have long-term effectiveness without the negative side effects of medication

Clients report the following benefits: 

  • Improved mood and energy

  • Less time in falling asleep

  • Waking up fewer times in the night

  • An overall increase in sleep time

Here are some clinicians who have informed my practice:

What's the Next Step? 

Matthew Walker on Joe Rogan

Christina Korol discusses CBT-I

Brief Description of CBT-I