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Spotlight on sleep psychologists

Filed in
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mental Health
  • Depression

By Kate Robards  |  Jul 20, 2020
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Sleep Psychologist

Sleep is connected with your mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your mental health suffers.

Sleep deprivation puts you at a higher risk of having depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. And, sleep problems are more likely to affect people who have existing mental health issues. Treating your sleep disorder may help with symptoms of mental health problems.

If you’re experiencing a sleep disorder you may meet with a sleep psychologist, one of the members of the integrated sleep care team.

What is a sleep psychologist?

Sleep psychologists study sleep and treat sleep disorders. They are highly trained mental health professionals. They develop an understanding of normal and disordered sleep. Sleep psychologists seek to understand the root of what may be causing your sleep disorder so that they can treat it.

Sleep psychologists can help those experiencing sleep problems related to:

  • Insomnia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Parasomnias (e.g. nightmares, sleep terrors, sleepwalking, bedwetting)
  • Sleep movement disorders (e.g. restless legs syndrome)
  • Sleep cycle disorders
  • Dependence on sleep medications
  • Sleep disorders most amenable to interventions provided by sleep psychologists include: chronic insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, and PAP non-adherence.  Often, sleep psychologists may use cognitive behavioral therapy to treat sleep disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change actions or thoughts that are hurting your ability to sleep well.

    Studies have found that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is more effective than medications used to treat insomnia. It is the role of sleep psychologists to administer this type of behavioral therapy to treat sleep disorders.

    Because many sleep disorders affect overall health, sleep psychologists may work closely with other members of the sleep team, including physicians, surgeons and dentists, to treat co-occurring health issues.

    “Close collaboration with the sleep team informs my care of the sleep patient every step of the way,” says Dr. Deirdre Conroy, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at University of Michigan. “Whether it is discussing the results of the polysomnogram, laboratory results, recent adjustments to CPAP pressure, or obtaining other updates on their health, the medical component of the patient’s treatment is integral to the mental health component.”

    The treatment for your sleep disorder depends on its underlying cause. If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, get help from the sleep team at an accredited sleep center near you.

    Reviewed by Deirdre Conroy, DBSM, DABSM

    Related Articles:

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    Depression and anxiety are linked to frequent nightmares

    Multiple mood and anxiety disorders cause insomnia


    2 Comments

    1. 1 American Academy of Sleep Medicine 10 Dec
      Hi Chris, we recommend contacting an accredited member sleep center in your area for help. You can find a listing of these centers on our website at www.sleepeducation.org/find-a-facility.
    2. 2 Chris Grant7Q 09 Dec
      The amount of time I sleep each day is dwindling. I am 73 and always in very good health.  Now all of a sudden
      I am no longer able to fall asleep or stay asleep on my own.
      I think I'm at the end of experimenting with over-the-counter sleep products......I have now again gone two days straight with NO sleep whatsoever.  I need help!

      Is it possible to at least meet with someone that could help?  Thank you....Chris Grant   952-890-5858

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