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Online therapy may help treat insomnia

January 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
More than a quarter of Americans lose sleep over various reasons. Now, there's a new way to fight insomnia that avoids medications and uses your own computer to help you finally get some sleep.No matter who you are, it's hard to escape concerns whether it's money, what's going on in the world or just daily life.

In a recent survey, half of those asked say they are suffering from debt related stress, and 22 percent are feeling it greatly and many are losing sleep over worry.

Insomnia sufferers filled more than 50 million prescriptions for sleep meds last year. Sleeping pills aren't intended to treat chronic problems, and some experts say it's not worth the risk.

"You do develop a dependency with virtually every sleep aid that's out there," warned Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi, the medical director at the Orlando Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Associates.

Many experts say cognitive therapy is more effective, but not everyone can afford it. So sleep specialist Dr. Gregg Jacobs offers a five-week program that you can take online.

"A lot of people don't have the time or the ability to come over here to the sleep clinic for four or five visits," said Jacobs.

Some lessons in the program teach you to get up at the same time every day, to keep a sleep diary and don't stay in bed if you're awake. Instead, get away for 30 minutes. Patients also practice relaxation.

"We find a lot of people are actually more comfortable with a computer than interacting with a person," said Jacobs.

Experts say nighttime wakefulness went down a whopping 55 percent when people enrolled in an online sleep counseling program.

And a recent Sleep Journal study found 81 percent of those using online behavior therapy reported improved sleep.

One downside is that some think the online therapy makes it more difficult to get to the root of the person's sleep troubles, especially if they suffer from depression.

But for many others, it's an option that helps the growing number of sleepless Americans get some precious rest.