Sleep Disorders

28 June 2006

Therapy best for insomnia

People with chronic insomnia can get more and deeper sleep if they receive cognitive behavioural therapy to treat their sleep disorder.

While popping a sleeping pill may be the solution for an occasional sleepless night, people with chronic insomnia can get more and deeper sleep if they receive cognitive behavioural therapy to treat their sleep disorder.

Results of the study appear in the June 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Almost 60% of people affected
Sleeplessness is a substantial problem. According to the US National Sleep Foundation (NSF), almost six of 10 people report having insomnia at least a few nights weekly. Insomnia becomes chronic if you have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep for longer than one month.

Best results with therapy
Those receiving CBT improved their "sleep efficiency" from 81.4 percent to 90.1 percent by the end of the 6-month study, while the zopiclone group decreased from 82.3 percent to 81.9 percent. While total sleep time was similar for all three groups at six months, people who received CBT spent more time in slow-wave sleep and woke up less during the night than people in the other two groups, according to the study.

Meds only a temporary solution
Both Sivertsen and Zafarlotfi said there's still a place for medications in treating short-term insomnia, but their use should be limited to a few weeks. Zafarlotfi likens the use of sleep medications to needing crutches after you break your leg. For a short time, you need the crutches, but then if you want your leg to truly get better, you have to put the crutches away and start exercising your leg.

Sleepless in SA – peer forum


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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