Countless people suffer from insomnia, staying awake when they want to be asleep. Insomnia can affect you at the beginning, middle, or end of the night. Whenever it occurs, it is extremely frustrating and people will try almost anything to get relief. What are the best treatments for chronic insomnia? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a few alternatives have been shown to be effective, including:
These individual components are often combined into highly effective treatment packages known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia or CBT-I. Many studies have shown that CBT-I can help most people with insomnia to sleep much better. (Some medications can actually do about as well as CBT-I in the short-term, but long-term outcomes are generally better with CBT-I.)
A study in The Behavior Therapist asked treatment providers a crucial question: What do you recommend for patients with insomnia, in light of the treatments that are known to be effective? According to the survey results, 88% of health practitioners (including physicians, psychologists, nurses, and others) recommended improved sleep hygiene as a stand-alone treatment for insomnia. (Sleep hygiene includes making sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet; limiting caffeine intake; and avoiding excessive fluid intake in the evening.) Only about 30% of practitioners recommended stimulus control, and around 25% recommended sleep restriction. These numbers were in line with what practitioners believed about the effectiveness of these treatments.
The study’s authors lamented that treatment providers most often recommended sleep hygiene—even though there is little evidence for its effectiveness as a standalone treatment. (It is often included as a part of CBT-I). In light of existing studies and practice guidelines, it's critical to make both the public and health providers aware that sleep hygiene alone is not supported by solid research evidence. More powerful, better-tested treatments are available.
Promoting the best information is crucial: After all, good sleep helps nearly everything else in our lives.
A list of tips for good sleep can be found here.