Sleep – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Angie Koh, Professional Counsellor
Singapore Counselling Centre

Sleep is important for your mental and physical well-being.

Like exercising, eating healthily, and drinking water regularly, sleep is one of the most essential activities of our daily living.  However, many complain that it is hard to fall asleep, others that they don’t get sufficient sleep. Yet, sleep is so important for your health, as during sleep, the body restores itself, improving the immune system, and building up energy for the next day.

Sleep is also important for learning and memory as it is during sleep that the brain makes sense of all that has been learnt during the day and stores it in our long-term memory. Thus, a lack of sleep may reduce your ability to learn and retain new information.

Besides causing health issues, insufficient sleep may impair your ability to manage minor stresses, the result of which is that you may feel easily irritated and impatient; this could easily affect your communication and relationship with others. It may also increase the risk of developing depression and other anxiety disorders due to the stresses experienced.

What can you do to help yourself fall asleep easily and establish a regular routine?

The number of hours needed for each adult varies, ranging from 7 to 9 hours. There are many articles available on the internet to check the hours needed for your specific age group and the variety of ways to help you meet Mr. Sandman. Here are some ways, not often mentioned, that may be of significant help:

  • Consume natural foods, 1 or 2 hours before bedtime, that promote the production of melatonin (the hormone in our bodies essential for inducing sleepiness).   For example, cherries (juice, fresh or dried fruit), oatmeal, almonds, pistachios – are good sources of melatonin. Also, calcium-rich foods are particularly helpful in this area.
  • Employ deep-breathing exercises or meditation which help to slow down processes in your body and prepares it for the downtime needed to get ready for sleep.  Yoga or some light stretching exercises may also be more helpful.  Know your body and decide accordingly.
  • Switch off all electronic gadgets, mobile phones, laptops 1 to 2 hours before sleep. The blue light emitting from these gadgets prohibits melatonin, the hormone essential for inducing sleepiness.  If you absolutely must have your mobile in your bedroom, use a built-in blue filter or blue light blocking app at night.
  • Use weighted blankets which provide deep pressure to the body. This helps calm the nervous system, helping you to relax easily. Note: these blankets may not be suitable for those suffering from sleep apnea, asthma, or claustrophobia
  • Avoid ruminating at night.  If worrying and thinking about the day’s activities is something you do frequently before or at bedtime, it would be good to have a specific “worry time”  – choose a time when you can sit down for half an hour to write down all that you are worried about.  Getting your thoughts down on paper helps get them off your mind and leaves your mind free to unwind and relax. If ruminating at bedtime seems to be a regular negative pattern, you may want to apply Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies which can help you recognize your underlying anxieties, negative beliefs, and help you identify and modify the thoughts that keep you awake.

Sleep is so important that it is not worth it to go without adequate sleep.  Keeping your mind and body healthy is a basic requirement towards building the whole you and you are worth it!