• Thought Leadership

Behavioral sleep medicine: an integral part of sleep health care

Jason Ong, PhD | October 5, 2021

Sleep is a biological state, but it’s heavily influenced by our behaviors and has a strong connection to emotional well-being. In looking at whole-person health, the connection between the mind and body plays a strong role in the regulation of sleep.

Behavioral sleep medicine (BSM) is a clinical specialty that uses evidence-based cognitive and behavioral therapies to treat sleep disorders. “Cognitive” refers to a person’s thought patterns, while “behavioral” refers to the person’s actions based on these thoughts.

BSM therapies are used to treat clinical populations with certain sleep disorders. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is the first-line treatment for people with chronic insomnia. Imagery rehearsal therapy is an evidence-based treatment for nightmare disorder that occurs as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other BSM treatments are used to optimize standard medical treatments, such as motivation enhancement to improve adherence to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for those with obstructive sleep apnea.

BSM treatments can offer a number of benefits:

Evidence-based: Randomized controlled trials have shown that CBT-I is effective in treating insomnia and can lead to improvements in other conditions, such as depression and pain.

Non-invasive and safe: Unlike medication, there are no known physical side effects to CBT-I or other BSM treatments.

Improves quality of life: Beyond the specific sleep issue being addressed, patients report improvements in other parts of life, bringing an overall feeling of emotional well-being.

Sustainable: Patients make positive changes that show long-term results.

Enhances self-efficacy: BSM treatments empower patients to participate in their own success. As a result, patients develop the belief that they can achieve what they set their mind to — the mind-body connection at work.

While behavioral principles have always been part of SleepCharge therapies for sleep disorders, we are strengthening our clinical program with new strategies — from enhancing PAP therapy adherence for sleep apnea patients to developing more personalized treatment models for insomnia.

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