There are psychological and behavioral techniques that can be helpful for treating insomnia. Relaxation training, stimulus control, sleep restriction, and cognitive behavioral therapy are some examples. You’ll learn about these techniques below.
Some of these techniques can be self-taught, while for others it's better to enlist the help of a therapist or sleep specialist.
Relaxation training, or progressive muscle relaxation, teaches you to tense and relax muscles in different areas of the body. This helps to calm the body and induce sleep. Other relaxation techniques that may help you sleep involve breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation techniques, and guided imagery. You can listen to audio recordings to help guide you in learning these techniques. They may work to help you fall asleep and also return to sleep in the middle of the night.
Stimulus control helps 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 behavioral therapy (CBT) includes behavioral changes, such as going to bed and waking up at a regular time, getting out of bed after being awake for 20 minutes or so, and eliminating afternoon naps. It also adds a cognitive or "thinking" component. CBT works to challenge unhealthy beliefs and fears around sleep and teaches rational, positive thinking.