Sleep expert Rachel Manber, PhD, has seen the pervasive miseries of insomnia. Patients who are frustrated and fatigued tell her that they toss in bed all night, seeking that elusive comfortable spot. Others give up evening outings or vacations to avoid messing up their sleep schedules. Still others get anxious at bedtime, pondering whether to…
p schedules. Still others get anxious at bedtime, pondering whether to take sleep medications or wind down with a nightcap.
But trying so hard to fall asleep is counterproductive, says Manber, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University Medical Center and a behavioral sleep medicine specialist.
When you talk to somebody who sleeps well and you ask them, How do you sleep? How do you do that?' they will likely look at you with blank eyes. They don't do anything. Sleep is an automatic process, she says.
When you talk to somebody who has trouble sleeping, they will name a long list of things that they're doing to try to sleep. And that very effort to sleep ends up creating arousal and interfering with sleep.
Instead of trying to sleep, allow sleep to happen, Manber says.
For more than two decades, she has helped patients undo ineffective habits, stop their sleep medications, and drift into slumber on their own. Her method: cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI), a nondrug treatment that can improve sleep by helping patients change beliefs and behaviors.