Consumer Reports: Sleep better without drugs

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Sleep better without drugs (WLS)

One out of four of us say we have trouble sleeping. Many pop a sleeping pill. But most of those drugs can come with side effects, and Consumer Reports analysis finds they don't work all that well. New research points to a better solution for insomnia, one with no side effects.

Bridgette Brawner knows the distress that comes with insomnia.

"I was going on over a year of really just not being able to sleep. It builds up and it wears on your body, it wears on your mind, it wears on your relationships," Brawner said.

If your doctor has ruled out medical problems as the cause for your poor sleep, Consumer Reports recommends working with a cognitive behavioral therapist for insomnia.

"Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to improve the amount of sleep you get, as well as how often you waken at night and the actual quality of your sleep," said Orly Avitzur, M.D., Medical Director, Consumer Reports.

Here's how treatment often works: You'll be asked to keep a sleep diary, along with rating your sleep and how you feel the next day.

The therapist reviews that information and suggests strategies to improve the amount and quality of sleep you're getting.

"You started off taking an average of 40 minutes to fall asleep. That went down to 10 almost immediately," said James Findley, Ph.D., Penn Sleep Centers.

The therapist will also help you change your daily routine to set your body's wake-sleep cycle.

"A lot of our job is to make it absolutely crystal clear to the brain: Now is the time to be awake, now is the time to be asleep," Findley said.

Professional CBT-insomnia treatment requires roughly two months of weekly sessions and is usually covered by insurance. To Bridgette, the time and effort were worth it.

"To go through insomnia CBT and to have it actually work. I feel like my joy has been renewed. I feel like myself again," Brawner said.

Because sleeping better makes you feel better during the day, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said that cognitive behavioral therapy can significantly improve overall well-being and quality of life. You can find a cognitive behavioral therapist in your area at behavioralsleep.org.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2016. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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