CHICAGO May 19 Teaching insomniacs how to fall
asleep through talk therapy produces better results than
continued use of sleep medications that carry dependency risks,
according to a study released on Tuesday.
In a study of 160 adults diagnosed with chronic insomnia,
researchers at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, compared
talk therapy with the popular sleeping aid zolpidem, sold under
the brand name Ambien by Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) but also
Insomnia is very common and can lead to depression and high
blood pressure, according to the report published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the six-week initial period, both weekly group therapy
sessions and nightly medication worked equally well, helping
around 60 percent of the patients get to sleep more quickly and
sleep longer, researcher Charles Morin wrote.
During the six-month follow-up period, patients who had
refresher therapy sessions had better sleep than those offered
drugs to take as needed, he said.
"The best long-term outcome was obtained with patients
treated with combined therapy initially, followed by (talk
therapy) alone," Morin wrote. "Although the present findings
are promising, there is currently no treatment that works for
every patient with insomnia."
Zolpidem is recommended for short periods. Side effects
include morning drowsiness and hallucinations if sleep does not
arrive right away, and drug dependence is not uncommon. There
have also been reports of sleepwalking, sleep driving, binge
eating and talking while sleeping on the drug.
Most effective against insomnia in the follow-up period
were bimonthly individual talk therapy sessions where patients
could address residual issues causing them to lose sleep.
In therapy, patients were instructed to only sleep in bed
and to avoid reading, watching television or spending time
worrying in bed. They were told to get up if unable to sleep
after 20 minutes and return to bed only when sleepy again, and
to arise at the same time every morning.
(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Maggie Fox)