While insomnia in older adults is often treated with pharmacological therapies, a new study finds that behavioral therapies are effective and have the benefit that they continue to work over a long period of time. The review, conducted by lead author Michael Irwin, MD of UCLA and fellow researchers examined 23 randomized, controlled clinical research trials of more than 500 participants in total. The results showed that behavioral therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation therapy and modifications in sleep behavior offered significant benefits to insomnia sufferers. The most common complaint among older adults with insomnia, frequent nighttime awakenings, was markedly improved by behavioral therapy.
The study comes on the heels of a 2005 National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science report which indicates that CBT is an effective treatment for chronic insomnia and may yield long-term benefits for patients. Yet both the NIH report and Irwin’s study call for more scientific investigation when it comes to insomnia treatments. In fact, Irwin’s review found that only eight studies on individuals over age 55 yielded statistically significant results. Irwin and fellow researchers call for more studies of older adults using objective measures to determine how insomnia can be treated best long-term.
The study is published in the January 2006 issue of Health Psychology and is the first in a series of evidence-based health reviews to be published by the journal.
From the National Sleep Foundation