Can Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) help you sleep better?

Traditionally, insomniacs have lent on sleeping pills, Hypnotherapy, Acupuncture and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to try and find the sleep that eludes them. CBT teaches you to recognise negative thoughts (I am worried I won’t get enough sleep tonight) and shut them down to avoid negative behaviours (now I can’t fall asleep as I am so worried about it).

However, there is now a new therapy available for insomniacs that advises against avoiding negative thoughts and it is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT.

“ACT helps you see how futile it can be putting energy into trying to change the thoughts and feelings that crop up around sleep. It teaches you to accept their presence and let them go, which in turn pushes you towards sleep”, says Guy Meadows, who has recently released ‘The Sleep Book’ that describes how to implement ACT techniques to ease sleeplessness over five weeks.

Early metacognitive research studies have shown a good outcomes, but what exactly is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

There are six steps that make up this approach:

  1. Acceptance

Rather than embarking on strategies such as hot baths, accept the things that show up when you try to sleep, such as unwanted thoughts.

  1. Mindfulness

Try and be in the present moment. Rather than worrying about the past, or what might happen in the future, take time out to ground yourself.

  1. Defusion

This is about defusing the sleep bomb: you need to start getting closer to and even playing with your unwanted thoughts and emotional reactions associated with insomnia in order to untangle yourself from them and lessen their power.

  1. Self in context

Put yourself and the situation into context. We have lots of stories playing in our heads: ‘I’m a failure’ or ‘no one likes me’ and ‘everyone else can sleep and I can’t’. Be able to put yourself into context and stand outside them.

  1. Values

Think about what’s important to you. Family? Your friends? Being healthy? If you could write your epitaph, what would you want it to say?

  1. Committed action

There’s no point valuing something if you don’t act upon it. There’s no point valuing being fit and healthy if you never go to the gym. This is about committing to act towards those values by making small steps every day. A happy brain is a sleepy brain.

These six steps come from the book ‘The Sleep Book’. To look into this programme in more detail you can purchase it here.