Insomnia Perplexes Sleep Experts

Published Online: Monday, August 1, 2005

Chronic insomnia remains a mystery, concluded a panel of specialists convened by the National Institutes of Health. The panel did find, however, that chronic insomnia is a major health problem, and too many individuals are using unproven therapies, even with treatments available that are effective. The panel's report, "Manifestations and Management of Chronic Insomnia in Adults" found:

  • Cognitive/behavioral therapy is effective and does not have side effects
  • New prescription sleep pills work without many of the side effects associated with older agents known as benzodiazepines
  • The most commonly used treatments are alcohol and OTC sedating antihistamines; alcohol usually disrupts quality sleep, and antihistamines can cause lasting daytime sedation and other cognitive problems
  • There is no evidence supporting the effectiveness of the dietary supplements melatonin and valerian to combat insomnia

The panel recommended a broader range of research into insomnia, reporting that, if researchers understood its underlying cause, they could develop effective treatments.

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