WESTCHESTER, Ill.Psychological and behavioral therapies produce reliable changes in several sleep parameters of insomniacs, and are, therefore, considered an effective treatment for insomnia, according to a new study published in the November 1 issue of the journal SLEEP. This finding confirms a review paper published in 1999 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) regarding the efficacy of psychological and behavioral treatments for insomnia.

The latest study, conducted by Charles M. Morin, PhD, of Université Laval in Québec, Canada, focused on 37 treatment studies — enrolled by a total of 2,246 patients, 2,029 of which completed treatment — published between 1998 and 2004. Participants of the study were 18 years of age and older who suffered from insomnia and had at least one treatment of either psychological or behavioral therapy. Subjects kept a one-to-two-week diary for the duration of treatment and for an additional one-to-two-week period at post treatment and follow-ups.

The results consistently showed that treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation conditions were effective for primary insomnia, as well as insomnia associated with some medical conditions and, to a lesser extent, with psychiatric conditions. Treatment benefits are well sustained over time. There is still limited evidence, however, of clinically meaningful changes beyond the reduction of insomnia symptoms, such as improved daytime functioning or quality of life.

“Although behavioral interventions are not very well known and infrequently used in medical practice, the current findings clearly show that they are an effective method for treating a prevalent and costly health problem, and should be used as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia,” said Morin.

Insomnia, a classification of sleep disorders defined by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or poor quality sleep, is the most common sleep complaint at any age. About 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia. It is more common among elderly people and women. It affects almost half of adults 60 years of age and older.

Although each person has an individual sleep need, most adults require an average of seven to eight hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested. Studies show that at least one in five adults reports getting an insufficient amount of sleep.

Research has linked insufficient sleep to such health problems as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and obesity. Not getting enough sleep can also deter the body’s ability to fight off illnesses.

Those suspecting they might have a sleep disorder are encouraged to make an appointment with a specialist at a sleep facility accredited by the AASM.

SLEEP is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.

SleepEducation.org, a website maintained by the AASM, provides information about the various sleep disorders that exist, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson regarding this study, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708)492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasm.org.