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Treatments for Insomnia



Medication is a popular choice for many individuals suffering from insomnia because it is fast-acting and widely available in primary care and specialty clinic settings. Those commonly prescribed for sleep include benzodiazepine and non-benzodiazepine hypnotic drugs, sedating antidepressants, antihistamines, and melatonin.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Many individuals turn to alternative strategies to aid sleep, such as acupuncture, herbal or dietary medicine, homeopathy, and body work.

Some research suggests that alternative methods are successful stand-alone treatments for insomnia while other research suggests it is more effective when used in combination with other methods. For example, acupuncture plus herbs may be more helpful to promote sleep than acupuncture alone.

Some traditional techniques are recommended as supplements to other forms of Western therapy or medication. For example, acupuncture plus medication appears more beneficial to promote sleep than medication alone.

At this point formal studies are limited, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions in support of many complementary and alternative techniques available. As a benefit over pharmaceutical medication, however, there seem to be few, if any, serious adverse effects associated with many traditional techniques.


A growing body of research supports psychotherapy for treating insomnia. For long-term sleep benefits, therapy may be more beneficial than medication. Effective psychological treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are focused on altering an individual’s environment and enhancing awareness of certain patterns that may interfere with sleep.

Research strongly supports the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the treatment of insomnia. CBT for insomnia (CBT-I), similar to CBT for other mental health conditions, is an active therapy that aims to alter thinking patterns and behaviors that are maladaptive to a patient’s sleep. CBT is available in individual, self-help, and group-based formats.

See pages 2-4 for a more extensive description of these methods.



Bluestein, D., Healey, A. C., & Rutledge, C. M. (2011). Acceptability of behavioral treatments for insomnia. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine24(3), 272-280.

Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine15(11), 1171-1186.

Chen, H. Y., Shi, Y., Ng, C. S., Chan, S. M., Yung, K. K. L., & Zhang, Q. L. (2007). Auricular acupuncture treatment for insomnia: a systematic review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine13(6), 669-676.

Ong, J., & Sholtes, D. (2010). A mindfulness‐based approach to the treatment of insomnia. Journal of clinical psychology66(11), 1175-1184.

Taylor, D. J., & Roane, B. M. (2010). Treatment of insomnia in adults and children: a practice‐friendly review of research. Journal of clinical psychology,66(11), 1137-1147.

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Treatments for Insomnia

Johnna Medina, Ph.D.

Johnna Medina, Ph.D. is an author, researcher, and graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing her postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford School of Medicine.

APA Reference
Medina, J. (2018). Treatments for Insomnia. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 25, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Sep 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Sep 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.