The Truth Behind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

“I was lying down, eyes wide open, starting to dread another one of those sleepless nights.

I turned to look at the clock; it was 2.30 am. And my husband was sound asleep, the house was quiet.

A weird feeling started to grow…

I felt I was a bit of an alien. The only person awake… at a time when the whole world is asleep.”

This was the way Sophie (not her real name) told me her story.

Sophie was averaging 4 hours sleep a night. This was starting to affect her mental health.

She had been suffering from this sleep problem for over 15 years.

But after another bad bout, and out of sheer desperation, she had reached out to me through a friend of a friend after she saw me on TV.

I had just done a documentary series with Channel 4 called “The Secrets of Sleep”.

Having had chronic insomnia for so long, as well as some other complicating factors, Sophie was one of the more severe cases I have treated.

She felt like she was the only one in this situation and that she had reached a level that meant she was totally incurable.

She told me “I haven’t contacted you before because I was convinced I was the 1% you couldn’t treat

And she was worried that she was slowly forgetting how to sleep…

That one day, the little sleep she had left would disappear.

And then what would happen?

Would she go away all together?

And yet…

In just 2 months she was completely rid of her insomnia and has never relapsed.

Sophie’s story isn’t a one-off.

This is the experience the vast majority of my patients go though, and the outcome is practically always that they are rid of their insomnia.

I’ve worked on the subject of sleep for over 15 years. It all started while I was studying, and I had the opportunity to work with Harvard Medical School sleep division. There I was working on studies funded by big organisations including NASA.

Since, I’ve helped many thousands of patients with every different type of sleep disorder.

First at Guy’s and St Thomas’, one of the world’s best specialised sleep clinics, and later on with my own clinic as well as for the National Health Service (UK).

Insomnia has become my true speciality.

And what I can tell you with absolute certainty, is that CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia) works.

In fact, it is the ONLY evidence based effective long-term treatment for insomnia.

And this evidence is not solely from my experience and research.

Countless studies around the world back the efficacy of CBT-I.

It’s the recommended first line of treatment by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as well as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and National Institute for health (America).

So, what exactly is CBTI you may be thinking?

Well, to put it simply, CBTI (or cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia) is a treatment that works by addressing the multiple issues at the root of the sleep problem and altering them to restructure a healthy sleep.

By altering these behavioural patterns, we move you back to what is normal and physiologically natural for your body. The changes are therefore easier to maintain: your body wants consolidated, unbroken sleep.

The therapy is typically between 4 to 6 weeks long with the first changes in sleep occurring after 2 to 4 weeks.
Profound improvement is experienced after 6 weeks.

The benefits of CBT-I

CBTI has been shown to improve many aspects of sleep:
• Increase in total sleep time
• Reduce wake time at night, and how quickly it takes you to fall back to sleep
• Reduce time to falling asleep (sleep latency)
• Improvement of sleep quality – the sleep no longer feels light but rather deep and restorative

So why isn’t everyone using CBTI I often ask myself!
And there are a few reasons to this.

1- It's not a "quick fix"

Although CBTI will take 4 to 6 weeks and is effective long term, most sufferers of insomnia want a quick solution to their problem.

This explains the success of sleeping pills of course (well not in terms of results but in terms of consumption)

But it also explains why Sophie had tried so many sleep aids:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Yoga
  • Meditation apps
  • CBD
  • Hypnosis
  • A brand new mattress
  • Self cooling pillows
  • Sleep headphones
  • Sleep sounds
  • Warm baths
  • Herbal infusions
  • Giving up coffee AND alcohol
  • Anxiety therapy

She had tried literally every single sleep aid out there but none worked…

Although all may be good, some actually made the issue worse.

2- The confusion between CBT and CBTI

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often confused with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI).

CBT is often used as treatment for anxiety and depression.

It is presumed that psychologists and mental health practitioners are also trained in CBT-I.

However, there is a strong need for training in sleep medicine to be able to provide the intervention.

A significant part of the treatment requires a deep understanding of sleep.

Sadly, it also means that few psychologists are taking advantage of the situation and putting themselves forward as CBT-I therapists.

Us sleep physiologists are much less common.

3- Finding a specialist

Given the deep understanding of sleep that is required.. Coupled with actual practical and clinical experience, it is no surprise it’s extremely difficult finding a true specialist.

Anyone offering CBT-I should have studied both sleep medicine AND psychology to properly understand what they are doing and be able to be effective in their work.

4- The cost

The many study and experience hours needed and the rarity in specialists have a cost.

This is another consequence of the specialisation of CBT-I.

It can be costly for many patients.

Finding the right expert often means you will need to pay for their years’ experience and study – where as a non-experienced and less qualified individual may be cheaper.

However, there is a cost to going with less experienced or knowledgeable practitioners. 

And this is not only spending the money and not being cured… But also of the mental consequences of this.

Go with the very best practitioners, make sure they have many years experience and they have actually studied sleep as well as psychology.

The investment is worth every dime… Overcoming insomnia is priceless.


CBT-I is the only scientifically proven long term effective treatment for insomnia.

If, for over 3 months, you:

  • Have been struggling to fall asleep
  • Have no difficulties falling asleep but wake up regularly in the middle of the night.
  • Fall asleep OK but wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep.
  • Wake up unrefreshed and feel like you are unable to have a restful night

Whether the problem has been caused by pain, by medicine you’ve been taking, by stress or anxiety and whether or not i is continuous…

The CBT-I is the way for you to end your sleep problem and to discover a new life…

Because insomnia is not just about sleep!

Indeed it is not an overnight cure, but on the other side of the 4-6 week program is a new life waiting for you.

A life full of energy, of restful nights and of freedom.

Don’t suffer any longer… there is a cure to your sleep disorder!

Find the very best practitioner out there and discover a new you.

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