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Brief behavioural therapy 'is effective for insomnia'

By Christian Duffin

GPs should consider a short course of brief behavioural therapy to treat chronic insomnia in older adults, US researchers recommend.

A small randomised controlled trial conducted in primary care of 79 patients with an average age of 72 years found those who received brief behavioural instructions showed a significantly better response at four weeks, based on sleep questionnaires and diaries.

55% of patients given brief behavioural treatment reported being without insomnia after four weeks, compared with 13% of the comparison group who were given printed information only. The improvements in symptoms were sustained at six months.

Brief behavioural treatment also produced significantly better self-reported sleep and health, but there were no differences in drug use between the two groups.

Dr Daniel Buysse, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Sleep Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh concluded: ‘Brief behavioural treatment for insomnia is a simple, efficacious and durable intervention for chronic insomnia in older adults that produced statistically and clinically meaningful improvements that were sustained for six months.'

Arch Intern Med. Published online 24 January 2011

Credit Audrey JM Flickr Brief behavioural therapy to treat chronic insomnia in older adults More on...

Can alternative approaches - such as Chinese medicine - help with sleep problems? Click here for Dr Karine Nohr's story

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