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When Your Partner Has Insomnia

Insomnia can be a strain on a relationship. Your partner’s insomnia may interrupt your sleep. It may have gotten so bad that you choose to sleep in different rooms. Chronic insomnia can also cause fatigue, irritability, and depression that can cause problems in your relationship. The good news is that there is a highly effective therapy for insomnia.

It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I helps to change thoughts and habits. There are several CBT-I methods. Some can help a person make lifestyle changes. Others can help a person relax or change his or her thoughts. There are ways you can support your loved one while he or she is getting treated for insomnia.

With CBT-I, your partner may need to stop or change long-time habits, such as:

  • Going to bed too early

  • Sleeping late on weekends or days off

  • Lying in bed awake

  • Having caffeine later in the day

  • Using nicotine

  • Drinking alcohol at night

  • Snacking at night

What to Expect

Because you are a bed partner, this therapy is likely to affect your sleep or lifestyle habits. It may also affect your relationship. Your partner may feel very tired during the day for several weeks or more. This is a normal part of treatment for insomnia with CBT-I. During treatment, your partner may also need to:

  • Keep a daily sleep diary. This is a way to track sleep habits and quality. It’s an important tool the sleep therapist needs to see what treatment your partner needs, and how it’s working.

  • Have an earlier or later bedtime and wake time than you. An important part of CBT-I is adjusting time spent in bed. This can cause your partner’s time in bed to be different from yours.

  • Leave the bed in the middle of the night. Your partner will be told to leave the bed if unable to fall asleep or return to sleep in a certain amount of time. This is part of a CBT-I tool called stimulus control.

  • Keep strict bedtime and wake times. This means no late mornings. Your partner may also need to set an alarm to wake up each morning.

  • Make changes to his or her diet. This can include avoiding heavy late evening meals and snacks.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. This may include turning off the TV and instead listening to music, reading, taking a bath, and using other methods.

  • Change his or her medication. Some medications can cause insomnia. Your partner’s health care provider may need to change certain medications. 

How You Can Help

Changing sleep habits and schedules can be hard to do. You can help your partner:

  • Get treated for insomnia. If your partner has signs of insomnia but is not being treated, you can help. Talk to your partner about seeing his or her health care provider. The VA has programs to treat Veterans with insomnia.

  • Work out problems with your sleep schedules. Talk with your partner about any concerns you have about keeping different sleep schedules. Your partner’s health care provider can advise ways to help you share time in bed that still works with insomnia treatment.

  • Make lifestyle changes. Big changes such as giving up nicotine or alcohol can be hard to do. Your support will help. You can also help your partner find a group support program if needed.

  • Be aware of symptoms. Talk with your partner about any new or changing signs of sleep problems he or she has. These may include kicking, moving legs, snoring, or talking during sleep. You can also help him or her keep track of symptoms of other problems. These may include depression, anxiety, PTSD, or alcohol abuse. These things can also cause insomnia.

  • Be patient. When a person makes change to sleep habits, it can take a while to feel better. Your partner may feel more tired at first. CBT-I methods take time to work. You can help by reminding him or her to be patient and keep using the CBT-I methods from the sleep therapist.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/17/2014
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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