New Research: Identify and Treat Insomnia Early to Reduce Risk of Other Illnesses

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January 30, 2012

commonly prescribed drugs (antidepressants and antihistamines) have yet to be approved for treating insomnia, highlighting the great need for more research to evaluate efficacy of individual drugs in treating this condition.

This has prompted the National Institutes of Health in the USA to state that only two treatment options (cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] and approved hypnotic drugs) have sufficient evidence to support their use for the treatment of insomnia.

CBT is a treatment that uses psychological and behavioral methods such as relaxation techniques, sleep restriction, stimulus control, and education about sleep hygiene (e.g., diet, exercise, and the bedroom environment). CBT has been shown to be highly effective at treating insomnia, does not carry risks of adverse side effects, and has long-lasting benefits, which is a clear advantage compared with drug treatment. But at present there is a shortage of health-care professionals trained in these therapies.

The authors say: "Although CBT is not readily available in most clinical settings, access and delivery can be made easier through the use of innovative methods such as telephone consultations, group therapy, and self-help approaches via the internet."

They conclude: "There is an urgent need for more public education about sleep and broader dissemination of evidence-based therapies for insomnia, and education and training to prepare health-practitioners to attend and treat insomnia complaints according to clinical guidelines."

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