Researchers at Laval University, Quebec, Canada, have published the findings of their study comparing the benefits of talk therapy versus some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for insomnia.  It seems that, for the best long-term relief, talk therapy puts more people to sleep.

According to the report, published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers enlisted the help of 160 adults battling chronic insomnia.  Some were given talk therapy, in which they were encouraged to discuss the issues keeping them awake at night, and some were given the drug, zolpidem, sold generically and under the brand name, Ambien.

During the initial six-week phase of study, about 60% of the study participants said they slept longer and fell asleep quicker.  This rate of improvement was seen individuals taking zolpidem as well as in those meeting weekly in group therapy sessions but taking no sleep-aid drugs.

The big difference, however, showed up during the six-month follow-up phase of study.  Patients getting both therapies at the beginning of the study but who received only talk therapy for the follow-up period enjoyed better sleep than those who were instructed to take medication as needed to get to sleep during the follow-up period.

Many drugs prescribed for insomnia come with the risk of addiction and zolpidem, which is recommended for short-term use only, has been associated with adverse side effects which include sleep walking, talking in one’s sleep, driving while asleep, and binge eating while sleeping.

In addition to discussion of the underlying issues causing a person’s insomnia, study participants getting talk therapy were instructed to sleep in bed only and to refrain from reading, TV, and worrying while there.  When sleep didn’t come in 20 minutes or less, participants were instructed to get out of bed and return only when they got sleepy.  They were also directed to wake up at the same time every day.

While insomnia can wreak havoc on one’s mood and social skills, it can also lead to depression and hypertension.