Talk to your doctor
If you are experiencing sleep problems, we suggest discussing this with your primary care physician or other health care professional. Although most insomnia is not caused by an identifiable medical issue, you want to either treat or rule out a medical basis.
If your sleeplessness has a medical or psychiatric basis, you must address this with your physician. Obstructive sleep apnea, allergies, and restless leg syndrome are examples of medical conditions that can disrupt sleep. Clinical depression and anxiety disorders are examples of psychiatric issues that can disturb sleep.
The STS is intended to help otherwise normal individuals learn how to sleep better through a variety of methods
Using the STS, you will learn and use a number of methods, tools, and techniques to help improve sleep, including some derived from cognitive behavioral therapy specifically applied to insomnia (CBT-I). These methods have been found to be very effective in helping those with primary insomnia, which generally refers to insomnia with no apparent medical or psychiatric basis.
CBT-I methods have been found to be particularly helpful with pyschophysiologic insomnia, one of the most common types. Although reliable survey data are limited, the Institute of Medicine estimates some 30 million Americans, or roughly one out of ten persons, may have some form of psychophysiologic insomnia, which is often characterized by excessive worry about sleep, and is not caused by an apparent medical or psychiatric issue.
The STS does not diagnose or treat insomnia with a medical or psychiatric basis
While methods in the STS can effectively address underlying thoughts and behaviors that potentially interfere with sleep, the program does not diagnose insomnia nor does it address medical or psychiatric causes for insomnia.
If you don’t know whether or not you have a medical or psychiatric condition that could be contributing to your sleeplessness, it would behoove you to find out as soon as possible. Your doctor can help in a number of ways.
Some medical issues that affect sleep may be relatively easy to treat by a physician. For instance, if you are awakened frequently by the need to urinate, this condition may be readily treatable by a health care professional. It’s worth it to find out.
Treatments are available for insomnia or sleep disorders with a medical or psychiatric basis. However, the information contained in the STS should not in any way be used to replace help from professionals for these issues if and when needed.
If you are being treated for a medical or psychiatric condition that is disrupting sleep, the STS can potentially help when used in conjunction with a professional who is responsible for your care. That’s because you may also have acquired some counterproductive behaviors and negative thought patterns that may be contributing to your sleeplessness – and the STS is intended to help individuals deal constructively with these issues.
The STS employs a sleep restriction method
One of the tools the STS uses (“Sleep Timing”) is derived from the sleep restriction method used in many sleep clinics. It is a powerful and very effective tool to help improve sleep.
Using this technique as described in the STS, most people find they function reasonably well during normal waking hours. However, because of the possibility that sleep restriction may produce an increased feeling of sleepiness during normal waking hours, and especially during the first few weeks, we strongly recommend letting common sense prevail at all times: if you feel excessively sleepy do not drive, operate machinery, or try to perform any task that could put you or anyone else at risk.
If you use sleeping pills, talk to your doctor about their use
For regular users of sleeping pills, we suggest you talk to your health care professional about their use. In the absence of a medical or psychiatric condition affecting sleep, some experts suggest that sleeping pills may actually do more harm than good when it comes to permanently strengthening your sleep system.
Many sleep specialists take the position that drugs do not directly address the root cause of learned or conditioned insomnia, only the symptom, and may contribute to the problem by reinforcing the belief that the solution to sleeplessness is external and resides out of one’s self-control.
By using the STS to strengthen your sleep system naturally, you may be able to gradually reduce and at some point completely eliminate the use of sleeping pills. However, we recommend this be done under the supervision of a health care professional. Your doctor can advise on any possible contributing factors to consider, such as interactions between prescriptions, changing the timing or dosage, and other sleep-supporting solutions which a trained medical professional familiar with your specific history can provide.
The bottom line for everyone: we suggest talking to your doctor about using CBT-I methods to improve sleep.