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The Treatment of Insomnia: New Developments
Dr. Krystal is the Director, Insomnia and Sleep Research Program, and Associate Professor with Tenure in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine.
People tend to use the word insomnia casually, but insomnia is more than just occasional tossing and turning in bed. It is a debilitating, often chronic illness. To be diagnosed with true insomnia, you must have a problem falling asleep, staying asleep or getting enough rest from sleep that interferes with work or other everyday tasks. People with insomnia often find it difficult simply to get through the day.(1)
A Common Problem That Is Little-ResearchedToday, a surprising 10-20% of the U. S. population suffer from insomnia.(2)(3)(4)(5) Yet despite how common it is, many people with insomnia go untreated, and many commonly-used treatments are either not effective or not backed by scientific research.(6) A quick look at the most common drug treatments given for insomnia in the U.S. in the year 2002 underscores this point. (See Figure 1). Six of the ten most frequently prescribed insomnia drugs have never actually been studied for this use; the most frequently administered drug has been the subject of a single study, which, incidentally, suggested that it did not work.(7)
Studies of Insomnia Prescriptions in 2002.
Figure 1 shows that a drug that was prescribed 2.75 million times in 2002 had been studied only once; between 0.5 and 1 million prescriptions of two other drugs were written without any study having been carried out; between 0.25 and 0.5 million prescriptions were written for three others, also without a single study supporting their use for insomnia.
For many years, there was very little research on insomnia. Recently, however, this has begun to change. A number of new studies are providing important new information that may lead to new and better weapons in the battle against insomnia.
Who Should Receive Treatment for Insomnia?Here are the basics regarding the state of our current understanding of insomnia and its treatment:
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