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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 that work together to improve sleep. Some can help a person make lifestyle changes. Others can help a person relax or change unhelpful thoughts. There are ways you can support your loved one while they are 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

  • Watching TV in bed

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 more sleepy during the day for several weeks. 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 for the healthcare provider 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.

  • Stop watching TV in bed. This guideline will help your partner train their mind and body to be asleep in bed instead of awake.

  • 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 regular rise times. This means no late mornings. Your partner may also need to set an alarm to wake up each morning.

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

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 their 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 healthcare 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 they have. These may include kicking, moving legs, snoring, or talking during sleep. You can also help them 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 sleepy at first. CBT-I methods take time to work. You can help by reminding them to be patient and keep using the CBT-I methods from the healthcare provider.

For more information

If you are a Veteran and you have insomnia, contact your VA healthcare provider about CBT-I or check out some of the below resources.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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