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New therapy helps people with insomnia

May 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nearly everyone has trouble sleeping once in a while, but for 10-percent of American adults, insomnia is a chronic problem. Now researchers say they've tested a systematic approach to getting to sleep and staying asleep.Sylvia Bourque lived with insomnia for ten years, nightfall always brought dread.

I became very frantic because nightfall would be coming and I new I would be looking at the ceiling for three or four hours," said Bourque.

Tens of millions of people suffer from sleepless nights and so a group of researchers from Quebec wanted to find the best way to treat it.

"The impact of chronic insomnia is that it reduces quality of life, it impairs daytime functioning," said Dr. Charles Morin.

Dr. Morin and his colleagues studied a group of 160 patients with chronic insomnia.

In his study provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, he found a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy to be the most effective strategy.

"Cognitive behavioral therapy or 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 Dr. Morin.

The therapy shows people how to re-interpret their behavior. For example, participants were taught to avoid unrealistic sleep expectations, restrict their time in bed and get up at the same time daily. Changes in their sleep habits were measured with periodic sleep lab assessment as well as self reported sleep diaries.

Patients received cognitive behavioral therapy and medications during the initial six weeks followed by CBT alone for six months.

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

Now a former insomnia patient, Sylvia still relies on CBT methods if she happens to wake up at night.

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