What is Behavioral Sleep Medicine and why is it needed?
Sleep disorders lower quality of life and contribute to physical and mental health problems. Sleep disorders and lack of sleep are an under treated threat to the public health. Sleep professionals have recognized the behavioral components of sleep disorders for decades, yet most patients never get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Behavioral Sleep Medicine is an expanding area of the sleep field that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of sleep disorders by addressing behavioral, psychological, and physiological factors that interfere with sleep.
Behavioral sleep specialists utilize evidenced-based therapies that often combine behavioral approaches with cognitive techniques. Sometimes device-based treatments such as bright light boxes are utilized in behavioral sleep medicine treatments. Most approaches in Behavioral Sleep Medicine do not involve medications, but some interventions may be used in conjunction with medications or to help patients better tolerate medical therapies such as continuous positive airway pressure therapies for sleep apnea.
Many Behavioral Sleep Medicine interventions are based on cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT). CBT is supported by scientific data and has a successful track record for treating a variety of sleep disorders. The behavioral aspect of CBT for sleep disorders focuses on eliminating habits, behaviors and environmental disruptions that stand in the way of quality rest. The focus is on systematically introducing behavioral changes that have been proven to improve sleep. This could include changes in sleep schedule and changes in the contingencies and reinforcers that promote sleep. The cognitive approach focuses on looking internally to examine, manage, or modify sleep interfering thoughts and beliefs that can interfere with sleep. Most CBT therapies for sleep disorders are brief, involving an evaluation and a limited number of treatment visits.
The Society for Behavioral Sleep Medicine aims to make CBT and related treatments for sleep disorders a standard of comprehensive care.