Which type of treatment is most effective for insomnia?
The best type of treatment (or combination of treatments) will depend one each person’s unique situation. I strongly advise people to get a physical health evaluation from their primary care physician to rule out any medical problems. In addition, if there are indications of a sleep disorder other than insomnia, I advise a ‘sleep study’ using polysomnography.
For occasional or short-term insomnia, many people respond favorably to a combination of:
- Occasional use of sleep medications
- Relaxation exercises
- Supportive counseling to discuss stress
- Physical exercise
- Improvements in sleep environment
- Reduction or elimination of substances
- Bright light therapy
For long-term or chronic insomnia, I recommend a more structured and comprehensive approach. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that specifically targets insomnia appears to be the most effective treatment for chronic insomnia. Research studies comparing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to sedative medication treatment for long-term insomnia have shown that people who received CBT tended to get more improvements in sleep and the improvements were longer lasting. In many cases, medications can be used effectively in combination with CBT.
Click here for a detailed diagram of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy of Insomnia.