There are some nice guided progressive relaxation audio files on a web site that, although it’s promoting a drug, does also provide some useful tips on managing insomnia. It’s important to be aware that sleeping pills can be dangerous and generally aren’t helpful except short-term. Instead, sleep management establishes new behaviour instead of the behaviour of swallowing a sedative.

To stress the point, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that therapy, in particular CBT, is more effective than medication for insomnia. A controlled trial in Norway comparing zopiclone (Lunesta) to placebo and a therapy intervention that included “information on sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, stimulus control, cognitive therapy, and progressive relaxation technique” measured the quality and quantity of sleep. After six weeks the CBT group reduced wake time by 52% compared to 4% with zopiclone, and quality of sleep was significantly improved. Six months later, the therapy’s effect was still beneficial while the drug had no lasting effect.

Learning to relax is one key part of sleep hygiene, and progressive relaxation is a well-established technique.

The type of lighting in your home may be a contributing factor to insomnia as well. This new JAMA study did not look into that angle. Bright light therapy for seasonal depression is proven effective, but reverse applications for insomnia and mania have scant research.