The most common symptoms of sleep problems include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Troubled sleep
  • Physical illness or physical discomfort
  • Depression, anxiety, or stress
  • Counterproductive sleeping habits such as early bedtime, daytime napping, or excessive time spent awake in bed


  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnolence (chronic need for sleep)
  • Breathing-related sleep disorders
  • Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
  • Non-rapid eye movement sleep arousal disorders
  • Nightmare and night terror disorders
  • Rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Substance/medication-induced sleep disorder.

Mental health conditions and sleep-wake disorders may occur together and may have a negative impact on each other. It is very important of to get an assessment and treatment of a sleep disorder, whether or not a mental health condition is present and being treated.

Some sleep disorders are attributable to a medical condition, while others may have psychological roots. A person might experience some level of trouble sleeping during a difficult transition in one’s life or as the result of anxiety or depression, and without treatment, the condition may often worsen. Regardless of what has caused a sleep disturbance, therapy is often beneficial as one works through the effects and cause, when the cause is known.


Psychological therapy for sleep-wake disorders generally focuses on changing behaviors, setting and achieving goals, becoming more self-aware, and learning relaxation skills. Once the root cause of a sleeping disorder has been uncovered, mental health professionals can often help those in therapy develop skills to modify unwanted sleep patterns.
Methods used in therapy to address sleep-wake disorders include:

  • Keeping a sleep diary. Doing so can help identify harmful sleep patterns and triggers of disturbed sleep.
  • Sleep restriction therapy. This treatment, especially effective for insomnia, restricts naps and early bedtimes so that the person seeking treatment will eventually be able to fall asleep at the right time and get quality sleep.
  • Stimulus control instructions. This method examines an individual's sleep habits in order to uncover actions that may prevent good sleep.
  • Sleep hygiene education. Often used after an individual's sleeping patterns are analyzed, this training helps those in treatment develop a list, tailored to individual habits, of things that should and should not be done before bedtime.
  • Relapse prevention. Because sleep conditions may recur in the future, relapse prevention aims to help those in treatment prepare for the potential of future sleep trouble and develop methods to address concerns before they become overwhelming.
  • Dark therapy. Restricting light in the evening, especially the blue or blue-green light from TV and computer screens, can help prevent delays to the circadian clock and help individuals get to sleep earlier. This therapy is often combined with light therapy, or exposure to a bright light when one first wakes up.

Insomnia, in particular, can often be treated with CBT, with the aim to change one's sleep habits and sleep schedule and resolve misconceptions that may lead to difficulty sleeping. Keeping a sleep diary is typically a large part of the process.

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