As a dedicated sleep physician at the University of Chicago, I see a wide variety of sleep disorders from sleep apnea, narcolepsy as well as disrupted sleep and insomnia. Unfortunately, in these challenging times with the day-to-day stress of life, as well as living in times of a global pandemic, the number of people with insomnia has also been on the rise. In addition, there has been a sharp increase in the number of prescriptions for sleeping medications. However, sleeping pills can also cause issues with dependence, and eventual habituation – where the medication simply stops working as well as it had. Luckily, I have access to refer to one of the strongest treatments – cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
I often counsel patients that this can retrain the body and brain how to sleep again without the use of medication, and/or in the setting of weaning off medications that a patient has taken. Also, patients tend to have fairly rapid improvement of their sleep even after a couple weeks; in fact evidence demonstrates that CBT-I is as effective as a sleeping medication early on, and is better than a sleep pill long-term wise.
I have had many patients that have been essentially cured of their insomnia and weaned off sleeping pills by engaging in CBT-I; without relapse of symptoms. And since sleep is such an important part of our life and overall mental and physical health, we see improvement of other symptoms, including headaches, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.
Kenneth LeeMDADULT SLEEP NEUROLOGIST