The Ultimate Alternative Therapy for Insomnia

June 3, 2009  
Filed under General Interest

How’s this for an Alternative Therapy for Insomnia: Web Therapy… as in the Internet.

An estimated 50 million Americans received a prescription for sleeping pills like Ambien last year when they could have saved all that money, not to mention dealing with the side effects such as diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; “drugged” feeling; dry mouth; headache; nausea; nose or throat irritation; sluggishness; stomach upset. And these are the MILD side effects. A few of the more serious side effects of Ambien include abnormal thinking; behavior changes; chest pain; confusion; decreased coordination; difficulty swallowing or breathing; fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; hallucinations; memory problems; and more.

Even with prescription drugs and various other healing modalities, roughly 10% will still suffer from persistent insomnia.  Now a new study in the journal Sleep suggests a surprising treatment for the sleepless: the Internet.

A quick Internet search for insomnia, or any other type of disorder for that matter, will bring up hundreds of Web-based treatments that are now available. How does Web-based therapy compare to the “old fashioned” face-to-face therapy? For one, online therapies are often much simpler and far less expensive. And there’s growing evidence that online therapy for insomnia, as well as for other  sleeping disorders, actually works. Another advantage is that you can seek help on your own schedule, even in the middle of the night… when you can’t sleep. Yet another benefit of the online strategy is that it is readily available for those who don’t have access to a therapist, or whose insurance doesn’t cover therapy.

With all the new multimedia tools available to web developers, virtual therapy can (and often does, depending on the Website you visit) combine videos, text and audio clips to help the “Sleepless in (insert your city here).”

A previous study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (2004; 72:113-120), was conducted by Dr. Lars Strom and colleagues at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. It assessed the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for sleep-onset and sleep-maintenance insomnia administered via the Internet. The authors concluded that CBT administered in self-help format via the Internet holds promise as a potential treatment for chronic insomnia.

Internet-based self-help treatments have already been shown to be effective for other health problems such as panic disorder.   As with any therapy, virtual therapy is not a one-size-fits-all option, but based on recent studies, virtual therapy for insomnia it’s definitely worth a try.

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