If you’re one of countless people who suffers from insomnia, you know how frustrating it can be. As your bed partner dozes, you toss about fitfully, trying everything you can think of to bring on sleep. Whether it happens at the beginning, middle, or end of the night, people will try almost anything to get relief.
There’s no shortage of tricks for falling asleep. Tell anyone you’re struggling with sleep and chances are they’ll recommend something that worked for them or their neighbor. Maybe it’ll work for you, or more likely it will join the pile of tricks you tried without much success.
What’s actually been shown to work in research trials? According to the latest guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, effective options include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) combines these approaches into a highly effective treatment package (though it’s effective even without relaxation training). Many studies have shown that CBT-I can help most people with insomnia to sleep much better. (Some medications can help about as much as CBT-I in the short-term, but long-term outcomes tend to be better with CBT-I.)
In light of what’s been shown to work, what do healthcare providers recommend for their patients with insomnia?
According to a study in The Behavior Therapist, 88% of health practitioners (including nurses, physicians, psychologists, and others) recommended improved sleep hygiene as a stand-alone treatment for insomnia. Sleep hygiene includes things like limiting caffeine intake; avoiding excessive fluid intake in the evening; and making your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
Only about 30% of practitioners recommended stimulus control, and around 25% recommended sleep restriction. These numbers were consistent 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’s little evidence for its effectiveness as a standalone treatment. (It is often included as a part of CBT-I).
Clearly there’s work to be done in bringing the most effective insomnia treatment to the millions who need it. A few weeks of the right approach can relieve chronic insomnia much more effectively than can sleep hygiene alone. And good sleep helps with pretty much everything
Originally published at medium.com