Health Team

Study seeks treatment for insomnia

Posted May 29, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2009 7:06 p.m. EDT

With no long-term treatments for insomnia, researches have begun exploring the use of cognitive behavioral therapy in combination with medication to treat the disease.

“CBT, in short, is a therapeutic approach aimed at changing poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules and also changing the way people think about their sleep and their insomnia,” said Charles Morin, of Universite Laval in Quebec.

Morin helped conduct a study involving CBT and 160 patients with persistent insomnia.

Subjects restricted their time in bed and got up at the same time daily. Sleep assessments and sleep diaries measured changes in sleep habits.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A six-month combination of CBT and medication, followed by six months of CBT alone worked significantly better than continuing with the medication, the study showed.

“If you continue with medication, then people are less likely to invest time and effort in changing their sleep habits,” Morin said.

The treatment worked for Sylvia Bourque, who lived with chronic insomnia for more than 10 years. Bourque said she still relies on CBT methods if she wakes up at night.

Most people with insomnia don't ever seek treatment. They instead use alcohol or over-the-counter products to go to sleep.

Researchers hope awareness of treatment options will lead to sufferers seeking professional help.

Chronic insomnia can lead to trouble functioning during the day and increases the risk for major depression.