Digital Seminar

Coronavirus Related Insomnia: Strategies to Overcome Sleep Dysregulation Triggered by Schedule Disruptions and Social Distancing

Donn Posner, Ph.D., DBSM
1 Hour 01 Minutes
Apr 03, 2020
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Digital Seminar
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The unparalleled upending of every aspect of our lives that has been thrust upon all of us by the novel coronavirus represents a major stressor that can take a toll both physically and mentally. A toll on sleep will be no exception. This can happen because of increased stress and anxiety, but also because of major changes to the regularity of schedule and the overall rhythms of our lives. Change in work schedules, bedtime routines, activity level, and perhaps even light exposure can wreak havoc with normal sleep regulation. This in turn will then impact our energy, concentration, mood, and ability to cope.

Perhaps more concerning is that the coronavirus, and our attempts to deal with it (social distancing, working from home, homeschooling children, etc.), will likely go on for a while. What we know from the Behavioral Sleep Medicine literature is that when acute insomnia is maintained by ongoing factors, a shift takes place in which the individual begins to focus, in part, on the insomnia itself as a threat. This in turn leads to behavioural and cognitive changes that further dysregulate sleep and can turn into a chronic form of insomnia that will not resolve without targeted treatment. This Insomnia Disorder is widely recognized to be the most common of all sleep problems and is also a leading complaint in primary care settings. Left unresolved, the consequences and morbidity associated with chronic insomnia can be substantial across several domains and can include increased health care utilization, impaired quality of life, increased risk of medical and psychiatric disorders, and ultimately worse outcomes for all co-morbid disorders. So while we will eventually get to the other side of this pandemic, Insomnia Disorder may continue on long after the rest of life returns to normal.

This recording is designed to provide clinicians with an understanding of the factors that cause insomnia to evolve from a normal reaction to stress to a chronic condition that adversely impacts every aspect of your patients’ lives. In addition, we will discuss some simple strategies that your patients can employ now to avoid a chronic sleep problem in the long run.


Donn Posner, Ph.D., DBSM's Profile

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Donn Posner, Ph.D., a Diplomate of Behavioral Sleep Medicine (DBSM), is working as a clinical/research psychologist for the Palo Alto VA.

Prior to his role at the VA, he spent 25 years as a clinical associate professor at Brown Medical School. He served as the director of clinical behavioral medicine for Rhode Island and Miriam hospitals and was also the director of behavioral sleep medicine for the Sleep Disorders Center of Lifespan Hospitals. For 20 of those years, Dr. Posner served as the primary supervisor for a rotation of the behavioral medicine track of the clinical psychology internship at Brown. He also mentored post-doctoral fellows and lectured on behavioral sleep medicine and anxiety disorders to interns, fellows, and residents in internal medicine and psychiatry. In addition, he was a consultant for the Veteran’s Administration roll out of CBT-I and trained VA clinicians across the country in the implementation of this treatment.

Dr. Posner is one of the authors of Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Insomnia: A Session-by-Session Guide (New York: Springer/Verlag). The book is intended for clinical trainees and non-insomnia sleep specialists, as well as more experienced clinicians from outside the sleep medicine field who wish to learn how to provide empirically validated cognitive behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBT-I).

Dr. Posner is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and became one of the first certified behavioral sleep medicine specialists recognized by that group. He is also a founding member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine and has achieved the status of Diplomate with the SBSM, the highest level of qualification and competency that the organization bestows.

Speaker Disclosures:

Financial: Dr. Donn Posner has employment relationships with Stanford University School of Medicine and the Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR), and he is the founder and president of Sleepwell Consultants. He is an advisor to Dawn Health, Delta Sleep, Brain Train 2020 LTD, and iSleep Clinic. He receives a speaking honorarium and recording royalties from PESI, Inc. All relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations have been mitigated.

Non-financial: Dr. Donn Posner is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the American Psychological Association.

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  1. Explain how the coronavirus and social distancing can increase vulnerability to Insomnia Disorder, and apply simple behavioural sleep medicine concepts to help clients more quickly get their sleep under control and avoid long term insomnia.


Insomnia Definitions

  • Insomnia definition
  • Insomnia Disorder vs Acute Insomnia
  • Psychosocial and clinical correlates of Insomnia Disorder
  • Behavioural Model of Insomnia
  • Sleep Regulation: Sleep homeostasis, Circadian system, and Arousal system
  • Factors that interfere with Sleep Regulation

Behavioural Model of Insomnia

  • Evolution of acute to chronic insomnia
  • Define predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors
  • Borbely’s Two-process model of sleep regulation
  • Coronavirus as a precipitating factor
  • How quarantine and social distancing can dysregulate sleep

Targeting acute insomnia to prevent long term sleep disruption

  • Implications for medication treatments
  • General sleep hygiene
  • Prophylactic sleep hygiene
  • When and where to refer for Insomnia Disorder treatment

Target Audience

  • Counselors
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists
  • Psychotherapists
  • Therapists
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Addiction Counselors
  • Case Managers
  • Nurses

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