Lots of people these days claim that they have trouble sleeping. One in ten Americans has developed chronic insomnia.
The sleep disorders are most often treated with medication. Between six and ten percent of the adult population in the United States use sleeping pills.
But, one review of the medical evidence has discovered that therapy may help people with chronic sleep problems just as much or even more than medications.
There is a proof that cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of talk therapy focused on changing how one person reacts to special situations, can help those people with chronic bad sleep has been increasing over the past decade, according to Dr. David Cunnington, who is the senior author of the recent study and the director of the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre in Australia.
Cunnington said that they wanted to pull together all the minor studies that have been done on cognitive behavioral therapy for this condition to really get a huge pool of data and a great idea of how effective this is.
The results of the study were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday.
An usual typical treatment plan for the insomnia includes 4 to 6 sessions with a sleep psychologist. Therapists help train patients to get up every day at the same time and develop amazing sleep habits, like reserving bed for sleep rather than watching TV or avoiding caffeine and alcohol near bedtime. Also, they teach relaxation techniques and challenge the negative attitudes of people toward sleep.
After the therapy finishes, on average, the patients fell asleep about 20 minutes faster, and also were awake in the middle of the night about half an hour less, according to the study. The time they spent sleeping soundly increases by about 10%.
Cunnington said that based on some other studies, they know that those results from therapy are very similar to what you would see with those people who take medication.
The therapy is a better treatment option in many cases, since it treats the underlying anxieties which are responsible for the insomnia. Cunnington said that a medication just helps people get rest and puts a blanket over the anxiety, but the cognitive behavioral therapy discovers the core problems and challenges thinking of the people around sleep. It can really break the cycle of chronic insomnia.
Also, the medications come with many side effects as feeling sedated through the day, and most sleeping pills lose the effectiveness over time, according to Cunnington.
The question now is why don’t more doctors recommend this therapy for sleep issues? Kelly Baron, who specializes in sleep disorders and is a clinical psychologist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said that he thinks it is a problem of awareness.
Baron said that review surely gives them some fast and hard numbers on the efficacy of therapy. He was also involved in the recent study.
But, according to Baron, the primary care doctors usually don’t know where to refer the patients with chronic sleep problems, and also there is a shortage of therapists who are trained to treat the insomnia, especially outside the big cities.
Proponents of therapy for this sleep disorder are working to gain a better certification program for sleep psychologists, according to Baron. And what they really need to pay attention on at this moment is increasing accessibility, so more people with insomnia have the option to choose which therapy they want.