While pills are an acceptable solution for very occasional sleeplessness, those with chronic insomnia would be better off just talking.
A new study looked at the difference between cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and sleep drugs, and found that CBT is more effective. CBT is a type of talk therapy where the goal is to help people change their thought patterns and learn better responses to situations. Individuals who engaged in the sleep-enhancing practices fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer, the investigators said.
Clinical chronic insomnia affects up to 15 percent of adults and is associated with health issues such as anxiety, depression, and type 2 diabetes. Pharmacological approaches to treating insomnia are associated with tolerance, dependence, and adverse side effects, which makes talk-based therapy an appealing option for appropriate patients.
Researchers reviewed 20 published trials assessing the effectiveness of CBT on overnight sleep in adults with chronic insomnia and no underlying medical causes. They found that CBT helped patients enter sleep about 20 minutes faster, reduced the amount of time spent awake after falling asleep by nearly 30 minutes, and improved sleep efficiency by almost 10 percent. Study authors say that these findings are important because the psychological approach is safer and better tolerated than medication and teaches skills that can be maintained over time.
The researchers note that this approach takes significant effort from the patient compared to taking a pill. They also note that CBT is unfamiliar and underused by medical practitioners. More research is needed to determine if CBT for insomnia can improve the negative health outcomes associated with chronic insomnia.
To learn more, read this article on CBT from the Mayo Clinic, published on SleepBetter through our relationship with the worldwide leader in health and research.