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A new study found that cognitive behavior therapy worked better than sleeping pills at reducing insomnia. Cognitive behavior therapy involves patients learning to recognize and change patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to problems.
During the study, 63 healthy individuals with insomnia were randomly given Ambien (zolpidem tartrate), cognitive behavior therapy, both, or a placebo. Those who received therapy had five 30-minute sessions over 6 weeks. They were given daily exercises to "recognize, challenge, and change stress-inducing" thoughts, and they were taught techniques such as delaying bedtime or getting up to read if they did not fall asleep within 20 minutes, according to lead investigator Gregg D. Jacobs, PhD.
The individuals taking Ambien took a full dose for a month and then were slowly taken off the drug over the course of another month. The participants kept diaries in which they estimated the length of time it took them to achieve sleep. After 3 weeks, that time was reduced by 44% in the therapy group and in the combination treatment group, by 29% in the sleeping- pill-alone group, and by 10% in the placebo group. Reporting in the Archives of Internal Medicine (September 27, 2004), the researchers found that 2 weeks after treatment had stopped the gap had increased. The participants in the therapy group fell asleep in half the time it had taken them prior to the study, compared with 17% faster for the sleeping- pill-alone group.