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Optimise your routine for sleep with CBTI

Hey sleep enthusiast, you may have heard of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) and maybe you’re looking for how you could get started with exploring CBTI? I've got you!

As a sleep coach who works with CBTI along with other modalities, a key place to get started in using this well-established and effective treatment is the basic sleep rules. These are practical steps designed to create an environment that is conducive to sleep, as well as promote healthy sleep habits. Having been developed after years of research and clinical experience in the field of sleep medicine, the CBTI basic sleep rules focus on:

  • Sleep hygiene education - looking at factors that may interfere with sleep,

  • Stimulus control therapy - associating the bed and the bedroom with sleep, as well as seeking to eliminate factors that may block sleep there.

In Restful Sleep coaching, this is usually something that I guide clients through in the early phases of their coaching journey, sometimes we might focus only on CBTI. Once we have seen some shifts in sleep-related behaviours (and improved sleep results!), we can then look more deeply into gathering insights to make sustainable lifestyle change for consistent, Restful Sleep.

You can get started with reviewing your sleep habits using the rules below. As you try these out, see what you may notice about your sleep routine, as well as which changes may come easier than others…

Set a standard wake up time

This will help to align you with your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock, bringing more ease in your system overall. That’s because circadian rhythms support a number of processes in the body to function well, including the immune function, digestion, body temperature and more.

Use the bed only for sleep, sex or sickness

The aim with this one is to create a strong association of the bed as a place of rest, rather than tossing and turning, rumination or other stressful experiences.

Get up when you can’t sleep

It may seem counter-intuitive to get out of bed when you can’t sleep at night. But the reality is that if trying to get to sleep feels like an effort, then your system isn’t ready to start drifting off. Instead, go to another room and do some relaxing activities, such as reading, listening to gentle music, stretching or deep breathing until you start to feel sleepy.

Don’t plan, worry, etc in bed

Similar to the second rule, it’s worth getting clear on activities that do not belong in bed. I know many people find themselves turning the bed into a multi-functional area; it can be especially tempting during the weekends of colder, darker months or if you may have limited space for privacy in your home. Another thing to avoid is having difficult conversations in bed, have them in a separate space.

Avoid daytime napping

Whilst napping is not a problem for people who sleep well, it’s recommended that those who struggle with insomnia avoid it in order to strengthen the desire for sleep (sleep drive) as much as possible for bedtime.

Go to bed when you are sleepy, but not before the time suggested

When it gets to bedtime and you’ve been practicing these rules, you may need to practice some discipline with ensuring you don’t go to bed before your set bedtime. This relates to the first rule about having a regular time to wake up and creating new programming in the body.

Schedule wind-down time an hour before bed

With bedtime, there’s an opportunity to take some time for yourself to relax and unwind. By having a routine an hour before bed, you are signalling to your body that it’s a familiar time to start getting sleepy. This is an opportunity to enjoy some self care through gentle activities like reading or having a bath, to create new associations with this time of night.

Other considerations for stimulus control include limiting caffeine, alcohol, sugar, tobacco and other recreational drug use, as well as avoiding sleeping pills. Whilst exercise can help with tiring your body so you can fall asleep easier, it’s best not to do it around bedtime.

Going gently with trying out new habits

I’m curious if you would like to try for yourself these basic sleep rules, sleep enthusiast? Whilst they may seem fairly straightforward, it’s worth noting that lifestyle changes do take patience and commitment. This is because habits, which often run on autopilot, take discipline, time and energy to un-learn and recreate. So don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a few tries to get into a different routine.

Noticing when limiting beliefs may come up

There can also be complexity and challenge when you start to experiment with new habits and notice different kinds of discomfort, limiting beliefs and general resistance to your experience. This is a part of sleep coaching that I love to explore and support clients with, as we can get to the root cause of what may be blocking their sleep with deeply held beliefs. By identifying these, we can then replace them with new beliefs and habits to support new ways to consistent, Restful Sleep for the long term.

I hope the CBTI basic sleep rules have given some inspiration about things you can test out to see how your sleep may respond. If you'd like to find out more, you can learn more about CBTI and how it is used in Restful Sleep coaching by exploring the articles on this website. If you have tried the basic sleep rules and have questions, or would like to find out how creating a bespoke plan to address your specific sleep struggles could work, you can book a free discovery call.

Stay curious,



About the author

Maša Nobilo, Sleep Coach

From first-hand insomniac to certified Embodied Facilitator with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, the Feldenkrais Method and Embodied Yoga Principles, Maša is well-equipped to support you on journey to restful sleep.
Learn more below.

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