Sleep Therapy

Sleep therapy addresses problems that prevent a healthy sleep. A healthy sleep requires a broad spectrum of psychological and physical support, and is generally a consequence of good health, low anxiety, and a healthy lifestyle. Disregulated sleep can be due to chronic or acute problems, and can be long-term, temporary, or recurring.


Sleep is increasingly recognized as necessary for both physical and mental health and for competent performance in all endeavors. Chronic sleep deprivation is epidemic and spread across all age groups in Western culture. It affects the young who need more sleep than adults, those in their middle-age who bear the greater burden of family and financial responsibility, and elders whose sleep is more fragile. Chronic sleep deprivation has been estimated to reduce lifespan by two years on average, and is an acute problem for those who need to remain alert in order to ensure their safety.


Typical problems that prevent healthy sleep include:

  • Poor management of food, time, and activities;
  • Poor diet or insufficient nutrition;
  • Chronic physical tension due to pain, injury, or illness;
  • Chronic neural patterns of hyper-vigilance and rumination;
  • Anxiety pertaining to past trauma and current life issues;
  • Cardio-vascular problems affecting breathing;
  • Lack of physical tone, obesity, and other conditions affecting breathing; and
  • Neurological impairments.


The most common and superficial remediation is pharmaecutical, using herbals, over-the-counter, and prescription medications that target nervous system functions. These create the relaxation necessary to enter sleep, but fail to provide the support needed to establish healthy sleep. Chemical interventions have a negative effect on the sleep processes itself leading to a lower quality of sleep and, subsequently, to impared alertness.


Other approaches include mechanical (airway support), surgical (airway intervention), psychological (tension and anxiety), neurological (brain patterns), physiological (exercise and metabolic), and nutritional (herbal supplements). It's estimated that 75% of sleep problems have psychological origins. Few psychological services offered in this regard as psychotherapists are not educated regarding the breadth of the issue, and most doctors and sleep laboratories don't recognize the psychological aspects of the problem.


Medical doctors generally refer patients to sleep labs for testing and prescribe seditives, hypnotics, or anti-anxiety medications as a partial solution. Sleep laboratories test for dysregulated sleep patterns and diagnos mechanical problems. Counsellors and psychotherapists can address the deeper sources of anxiety and hyper-vigilance. Biofeedback, neurofeedback, and physiotherapy can retrain structural, physical, and nervous system patterns that obstruct healthy sleep. There is currently no centralized source of sleep therapy, and no sleep therapists trained in all modalities.


~Written by Dr. Lincoln Stoller


Specific Techniques


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