Sleep and Insomnia

Dr. Lisa Cottrell is a clinical psychologist at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Wauwatosa.

Dr. Lisa Cottrell is a clinical psychologist at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Wauwatosa.

National Sleep Awareness Week , March 2-9, 2014., is a public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of sleep. Dr. Lisa Cottrell Ph.D., CBSM. Licensed Psychologist, Board Certified in Behavioral Sleep Medicine, explains that there is effective treatment for insomnia.

How much sleep do we need?

Sleep need varies among individuals, but it generally changes as we age. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that school-age children (5-10 years) need 10-11 hours of sleep nightly, teens (10-17 years) need 8.5-9 hours and adults need 7-9 hours. According to data from the National Health Interview Survey, nearly 30% of adults reported an average of 6 hours or less of sleep per night in 2005-2007.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia, which is Latin for “no sleep,” is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia is also used to describe the condition of waking up not feeling restored or refreshed. Insomnia is the most common sleep problem among Americans. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders research at the National Institutes of Health, in any given year, 30 – 40% of adults have some symptoms of insomnia and 10 – 15% of adults report that they have chronic insomnia.

What causes Insomnia?

Insomnia may be caused by a variety of reasons: illnesses or underlying medical conditions; stress, anxiety or depression; certain medications; sleep disorders or issues related to sleep hygiene.

What are the effects of Insomnia?

The lack of sleep can be harmful to living a healthy life. Insufficient sleep can cause difficulty concentrating, lower your ability to learn, and impair performance of daily tasks. Sleep deficiency has been linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors. Persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity. When an underlying medical condition is causing insomnia, the insomnia can exacerbate the condition and health and sleep problems further deteriorate.

How is Insomnia treated?

Insomnia can be treated successfully. While there are medications available to treat difficulty falling and staying asleep, there is also an evidence-based approach to treat insomnia that does not require the use of medication.

Cognitive-behavioral treatment of insomnia (CBTI) is a short-term psychotherapy that is based on scientific knowledge about sleep. CBTI has been shown in research to be as effective as medication to treat insomnia in the short-term and more effective than medication in the long-term. However, you do not need to stop other treatment or medication while participating in CBTI.

CBTI involves meeting with a psychologist trained in the method. It is a short-term (6-10 sessions) treatment approach that includes monitoring sleep patterns, changing sleep-related behaviors, managing the sleep environment and learning strategies to cope effectively with thoughts or worries that interfere with sleep. People who engage in CBTI report high satisfaction with the method and significant improvements in sleep.

If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with sleep contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services

Dr. Lisa Cottrell Ph.D., CBSM. Licensed Psychologist, Board Certified in Behavioral Sleep Medicine is a clinical psychologist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Grafton, specializing in the behavioral and psychological treatment of sleep disorders. 


Changing seasons, changing moods: are you feeling SAD?

As the seasons change and the days become shorter, there can be a tendency for some people in northern climates to be affected by the decrease in exposure to sunlight.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that corresponds to seasonal changes in light. It most commonly occurs in late fall and lasts through the winter and into spring. It’s not uncommon to feel “down” during the winter months. But people with SAD are not able to function normally during these months. It often begins during adolescence or young adulthood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder may be experienced by six of every 100 people in the United States according to statistics by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Another 10% to 20% may experience some mild form of SAD. It seems to be more common in women than men and although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn’t start in people younger than 20 years of age. For adults, the risk of SAD decreases as they get older. Seasonal Affective Disorder is more common in northern geographic regions.

The cause of SAD is not completely understood. It is clearly related to changes in seasonal light. Light affects cycles in the body. Lack of light during the winter months could possibly throw off levels of hormones and brain chemicals. This could contribute to the symptoms of SAD.

Scientists are also researching if SAD is related to lack of the chemical serotonin in the brain.

People with SAD have seasonal symptoms that come and go each year. They usually peak during the winter and disappear during the spring and summer.

Symptoms can include:

  • Depressed mood, feelings of sadness
  • Cravings for sweet or starchy foods
  • Overeating
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased sexual desire

Visit our interactive screening tool to evaluate your symptoms.

People with SAD may benefit from several different treatment or approaches:

Light Therapy
Light therapy is simple. The light box is made up of fluorescent bulbs, a reflective surface, and a diffusing screen. Ordinary household lighting is not sufficient. You sit a few feet away from the ultra-bright light for a certain amount of time each day, usually in the morning. You will be able to read or work during the therapy, as your eyes will remain open. Your doctor will probably start you off with 15-20 minutes a day. You will gradually increase the time, usually to 30-45 minutes daily.

There is some evidence that light therapy may be as effective as antidepressant therapy, but with fewer side effects.

Tanning beds are not recommended as a source of light therapy. They give off ultraviolet light, which can increase the risk of cancer. They also have not been proven effective for treating SAD. Many people find that getting outdoors for a walk each day is also helpful.

Antidepressant Medications
Your doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medications. These medications are usually prescribed when a person does not feel better with light therapy or if the depression is very severe.

Therapists can help you learn ways of managing stress and the symptoms of SAD. To schedule an appointment with a psychotherapist at Aurora Behavioral Health call 414-773-4312 or visit our web site at

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options in a caring, confidential environment.  If you find you may be struggling with stress that is causing significant physical or emotional impairment in your lifecontact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.