Chances are you know someone who has difficulty sleeping, or you experience insomnia yourself. About 30 percent of adults in the U.S. experience symptoms of insomnia and 10 percent experience sleeplessness that impacts their daily activities.
In recent decades, prescription medications have been the primary treatment for insomnia. But these can lead to daytime grogginess and other undesirable side effects.
A new systematic review published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)— a form of talk therapy that focuses on changing how a person reacts to specific situations — can help people with chronic insomnia. The review included 20 randomized-controlled studies with a total of more than 1,100 participants.
Typical CBT for insomnia includes four to six sessions of talking with a sleep psychologist, who works with patients to develop healthy sleep habits and relaxation techniques, and change their negative attitudes toward sleep. Healthy sleep habits include going to be at the same time each night, avoiding alcohol and caffeine near bedtime, and removing electronic devices, such as computers, tablets and TVs, from the bedroom.
Patients in the studies who completed this type of therapy fell asleep about 20 minutes faster and were awake in the middle of the night almost half an hour less than before. These findings were similar to the results patients achieved with medication, but without the negative side effects.
The take-home message: Sleep therapy is an effective treatment for people suffering from insomnia, and may help patients avoid the side effects associated with prescription medications.