CBT-I Coach: What is it?

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Are you currently undergoing CBT-I treatment and need some additional support making changes to your routine and thoughts? If so, keep reading to learn more about CBT-I Coach.

What is CBT-I Coach?

CBT-I Coach is a mobile app created by Veterans Affairs that teaches users to recognize how their behaviors and thoughts affect their sleep patterns. Overall, the app features a practical design that provides several key components, including a review of sleep hygiene, a sleep diary, relaxation skills, and psychoeducation. The app fully supports sleep restriction and stimulus control work by offering lists of activities designed to keep you up or promote relaxation.

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CBT-I Coach Features

This app offers many features, including:


This information is meant to educate the user about the stages and purpose of sleep to provide a review of the early information provided by a clinician. Also included is a simple overview of sleep regulation that’s displayed in a way that’s easy to understand.

Sleep Diary

CBT-I Coach also provides the user with a digital sleep diary that helps calculate sleep efficiency and can give reminders to ensure the journal is filled out daily.

Relaxation Skills

The app shows effective ways to “wind down” at night and techniques to use for light cognitive restructuring.


This app provides assessments that users can take to score their Insomnia Severity Index. These can be scheduled as needed, and you can also review how your scores progress over time. Moreover, CBT-I Coach can be used to access the Sleep Need questionnaire, which allows the doctor to make more well-informed decisions about medications.


As we mentioned, CBT-I Coach allows you to set reminders to help you get to bed and wake up on time, enter data, and take assessments. When your total sleep falls below five hours per night, the app reminds the user to call their healthcare provider to help improve their sleep.

Overall, this is a great app that’s based on the therapy manual titled Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia among Veterans. Yet, it’s been shown to be effective for insomnia among both veterans and civilians. The CBT-I Coach app was created through a partnership with the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, the Department of Defense’s Center for Telehealth and Technology, and the Stanford School of Medicine.

Using the CBT-I Coach App

The app is easy to use but is most effective for those who are enrolled in treatment for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia with a trained therapist. This is a form of treatment that’s available at many DoD/VA and other mental health clinics.

If you are beginning CBT-I treatment, speak with your therapist about incorporating the use of this app into your plan. It’s compatible with many devices, including iOS and Android. The app works well to provide users with a structured program that can help reset the biological clock, thus making going to sleep and staying asleep easier.

The Science Behind CBT-I Coach

CBT-I Coach is based on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. CBT-I is a short and structured approach that’s evidence-backed and proven to help treat the symptoms of insomnia.

This treatment focuses on exploring connections between what we do, how we think, and how we sleep. During CBT-I, a trained provider helps identify feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that may be contributing to a person’s insomnia.

Feelings and thoughts about sleep are explored and tested to see if they are accurate, while behaviors are inspected to determine if they promote healthy sleep or not. The provider will then reframe or clarify challenges and misconceptions in a way that’s conducive to peaceful slumber.

CBT-I usually takes between six and eight sessions, though the length of treatment will depend on the patient’s needs. For example, when a primary care physician administers treatment, it may be completed in as little as two appointments. This treatment is considered multicomponent because it combines multiple educational, cognitive, and behavioral approaches.

  • Psychoeducational components: CBT-I focuses on providing information and raising awareness about the connections between behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and sleep.
  • Cognitive components: Cognitive restructuring works to change unhelpful or inaccurate beliefs about sleep.
  • Behavioral components: Sleep restriction, stimulus control, and relaxation training promote healthy sleep habits and relaxation.

It’s important to note that the flow and order of these components will vary based on the physician’s approach and the individual’s unique needs.

CBT-I Coach Limitations

Now that you’ve gained a clear understanding of what cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is and how CBT-I Coach can supplement treatment let’s discuss some limitations. As we mentioned, CBT-I Coach is overall a great app. However, like anything else, it does have a few drawbacks.

Designed to Supplement In-Person Therapy

CBT-I Coach is meant to be a companion app to supplement in-person therapy. Hence, it’s not designed to replace in-person therapy or stand-alone. In fact, the VA has said it is a “mobile companion for in-person therapy for promoting better sleep.”

With this, the VA is very cautious when marketing the CBT-I Coach app. They’ve added a disclaimer during the onboarding process that states, “CBT-I Coach does not replace professional treatment.” Furthermore, they include a qualifier on their site that details, “CBT-I Coach is intended to augment face-to-face care with a healthcare professional. It can be used on its own, but it is not intended to replace therapy for those who need it.”

Stellar Sleep is a better choice for those looking for a stand-alone, digital intervention for insomnia. In other words, the Stellar Sleep app is designed to be used as an alternative to in-person sleep therapy.

CBT-I Coach Does Not Offer Comprehensive Content

Since CBT-I Coach is meant to supplement professional treatment, their content is not that comprehensive. In fact, the main emphasis of their content is to highlight information that’s not typically stressed during in-person treatment sessions. Nonetheless, it’s information that the user may find interesting as supplement reading material (e.g., the science behind relaxation techniques and insomnia).

Crucially, this means that CBT-I has significant gaps in the covered content. One thing that stands out as missing is all information related to cognitive restructuring, as this is something that an in-person therapist usually covers in great detail. In fact, at least one or two out of five sessions is based on this concept, so they do not need to repeat the information in the app.

On the other hand, using the Stellar Sleep app, you’ll find that it covers the same set of information (and we aim for more) that is taught during in-person sleep therapy. Our app includes information related to the following:

  • The science behind insomnia
  • Stimulus control
  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Sleep restriction
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Relaxation techniques


CBT-I Coach is Unstructured and Text Only

Another thing that some users may find unsuitable is that all of the content included on the CBT-I Coach app is presented as paragraphs of text. Quite simply, where user experience is concerned, the curriculum included on the app is best described as a textbook in the form of a mobile app.

In contrast, Stellar Sleep presents content in a way that’s engaging, interactive, and personalized. We guide users through a structured, daily program. We offer audio modules, text modules, information panels, quizzes, questionnaires, exercises, etc., to make our program as engaging as possible. Moreover, our program is personalized based on the user’s inputs (e.g., sleep questionnaires).

Closing Thoughts

In the end, CBT-I Coach is a great app for those who are also enrolled in face-to-face therapy and are just looking for a supplement tool to create good habits. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a stand-alone app that will help treat insomnia, check out Stellar Sleep. You’ll find that our app offers a wonderful user experience and is engaging enough to make you want to use it! Check it out today!


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