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Modern times have offered us many commodities, from spectacular technology to the useful tools that make our daily lives easier. Unfortunately, to keep up with everything, our everyday tempo gets faster and faster. Due to numerous family, social and job obligations, many people don’t have enough time to sleep, and as a consequence, develop sleep disorders. One of the most common sleep disorders is insomnia. At least 35 percent of people experience it frequently, and for some, it even became chronic. However, even if you are dealing with chronic insomnia, it doesn’t mean you cannot at least alleviate some of the symptoms and sleep better.
Insomnia doesn’t always have to be triggered by psychological issues. It is true that stress is one of the leading causes, but there are also other factors like chronic pain, some medical conditions, and medications. In most cases, insomnia is triggered by bad sleeping and lifestyle habits.
Depending on the cause of insomnia, we have to opt for the corresponding treatment. Insomnia must always be diagnosed and treated by a professional. Taking melatonin supplements or sleeping pills on your own is not a good idea, especially if you don’t know what is causing your sleep issues. The wrong treatment will have little or no effect, or it may result in even more severe sleep problems.
This article is dedicated to explaining a new treatment that is addiction free – the CBT-I program or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia.
What is CBT?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. It focuses on improving emotional regulation, and the development of coping strategies that help solve their current problem. In most cases, the therapist helps to change the perception of a particular situation from a negative to a positive pattern, and promote positive thoughts.
The CBT-I is based on the idea that our habits are developed when our brain frequently reacts to certain stimuli be it negative or positive. That means if the patient changes the train of thought or emotions in a positive and upbuilding direction, a healthy pattern (which turns into a habit over time) will be created.
A therapist that specializes in CBT-I will help the patient to understand what is the cause of their insomnia, whether it’s caused by psychological issues or something else, and help them to create healthier sleeping habits that will either alleviate the symptoms or completely eliminate them. Unfortunately, there are only 75 licensed therapists in the US, as reported by the National Sleep Foundation. To meet the increasing need, some companies decided to create online CBT-I programs.
Online CBT-I programs function in a similar way. Even though you won’t have a live therapist at your disposal, the app will track your sleep pattern, ask questions to help you identify the cause, and provide you with relaxing exercises that promote better sleep.
The Best CBT-I Programs Online
Based on our research we have created a list of online CBT-I programs that many found helpful. We have categorized them into peer review researched ones, and unverified programs.
Peer Reviewed Online CBT-I Programs
RESTORE by Cobalt Therapeutics
About: RESTORE program was launched in 2006 and is available in Spanish and English.
Cobalt Therapeutics is one of the leading companies that provide innovative CBT/CCBT experience, and they are continually seeking ways to improve customer experience. Also, it was publicly acclaimed in Times Magazine, New York Times as well as other popular news.
How it works: It is a seven-session program designed to be finished in five weeks. You get materials that you can download, including Sleep Diary to help you understand your sleep habits and useful exercises for better sleep. Worksheets and reminder emails are also available.
Reviews: Based on their claims, 80 percent of consumers saw impressive results after the five-week program. A study in 2009 observed 118 people who had a problem with chronic insomnia. After using the RESTORE program, 81 percent of people said they had noticed at least some improvement while 30 percent said they could’ve slept full 1h longer. Other studies researched by PhD Vincent Norah show results that are similar to the previous study.
Cost: RESTORE program has three type of tiers – The Silver, The Gold, and The Platinum. The prices depend on the chosen program. The Gold contains support from the clinician and a session of 60 minutes with a coach. The platinum program includes everything that other ones have, plus additional material to cope with depression, OCD, phobias and more.
About: Created by Morin Charles and Ritterband Lee PhD after years of CBT research and finally launched in 2012. This program is suggested by more than 135 clinics that are related to sleep.
How it works: When you purchase the program, you get six lessons that are active for about six weeks including a personalized sleep schedule, a sleep diary, integration of Fitbit, homework and many more. What makes SHUTi stand out from the rest is how interactive it is, and you can customize it according to your needs and preferences.
According to reviews, people who use this program sleep more than six hours on a weekly basis, 55 percent say that they spend less time awake during the night, and 43 percent say that it takes them less time to fall asleep.
Cost: You have four levels of pricing – Basic ones are The SHUTi Self Help (149 dollars) and The SHUTi Professional (174 dollars) that include the access to a clinician and last twenty-six weeks. If you want to use them for a year, prices are 215 dollars and 249 dollars.
About: Espie Collin created Sleepio program, and it is supported by the research of 30 years. If you are not satisfied, you will get a full refund.
How it works: Sleepio offers a customized program based on the questions you fill out previously. You will get an interactive animated character called The Prof that will be your therapist. Every week you log in for a 20-minute session with your therapist The Prof, fill out your sleep diary and practice some useful techniques. In addition to your purchase, you will get helpful materials to learn from, email reminders, relaxation mp3 and much more.
Reviews: Based on their claims, 62 percent of people who have used this say that they no longer have frequent sleep disruptions, 58 percent say that say have noticed a focus boost, and 54 percent claim that they don’t have difficulty falling asleep as often as before. The studies that support these claims can be found on their website.
Cost: One year is 400 dollars, but there are ways you can get it for free. For example, you can agree to be a part of the research or if your employee insurance covers it.
About: This free mobile app was launched in 2013 by the National Center for PTSD, and it was designed for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
How it works: It contains an interactive sleep diary, relaxation exercises and a sleep hygiene practice with customizable reminders.
Reviews: Based on the study made by the US Department for VA, 60 percent of users say it improved homework adherence and outcome.
Cost: Free for Android and iOS
Unverified CBT-I Programs
About: Founded by MD Maurer Rachel this website offers a free pdf guide to CBT-I.
How it works: Since this is a guide, it can be used in addition to the traditional method of CBT-I or completed alone. You get a thirty-day guide to help you finish it, and you can repeat it the next month. Also, this guide of 12 pages contains information about sleep hygiene, quizzes, and worksheets regarding sleep thoughts, behavior, etc.
Reviews: Dr. Maurer Rachel does not provide information about studies regarding this program.
Conquering Insomnia Program
About: Since it was released in 2005, it is one of the oldest CBT-I programs available made by Dr. Jacobs D. G., PhD who has over thirty years of experience in sleep medicine.
How it works: The Conquering Insomnia Program contains pdf materials and is made to last about five weeks, one session each week. The website also contains Dr. Jacobs’s blog about his work and research.
Reviews: Based on the results of his research in 2004 85 percent of people who participate in his program reported that they noticed an improvement in their sleep, 80 percent said they used sleeping pills less, 70 percent said they had experienced increased duration of sleep up to one full hour.
Cost: You can get the Basic (49.95 dollars), Plus (54.95 dollars) and Premium (69.95 dollars). All package deals have the pdf, but The Plus package includes 20-minute relaxation techniques in audio form and The Premium has all of that plus Q&A session with Dr. Jacobs and a 60-minute audio program with training manuals.
About: This website is designed by a former insomniac and provides a tutorial. It contains detailed information about the creator as well as her personal experience and treatment.
How it works: This tutorial lasts ten days with activity list intended for each day. It is excellent for people who want to learn more about CBT-I from a fellow insomniac’s point of view.
Reviews: She openly says that she is not a licensed practitioner and that the purpose of the blog is to help others based on her experience and research. You can read it in detail in her Disclaimer.
Traditional CBT-I program and Online CBT-I programs don’t vary much from one another when it comes to results. The choice is all yours, depending on your preferences. You can decide what will make you progress better and keep your motivation high. Most CBT-I treatments include the following techniques:
- Restriction of sleep – You’ll get assigned schedule of sleep which you’ll have to follow.The idea is to train your mind to connect bed with sleep and get used to a new sleeping pattern.
- Control of the stimulus – You will practice sleep hygiene that involves making the bedroom environment suitable for sleep by optimizing temperature and darkness, making it quiet which will enhance the production of melatonin. Sleep hygiene also includes our before-bed routine.
- Relaxation training – If you tend to get stressed easily or you’re prone to anxiety, this method will help you relax before bedtime. It includes breathing exercises, relaxing music, and practicing to relax the muscles.
- Paradoxical intention – This is a method followed by good sleep hygiene. It promotes passive lying in the bed awake until you stop thinking about things that prevent you from falling asleep.
- Biofeedback – It is used to track changes in heart rate, increased tension in muscles, emotions, and anxiety before sleep,and it can help you regulate your responses.