Behavior Change Can Help Seniors Sleep Without Drugs

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A new study lays to rest the notion that sleepless seniors might respond poorly to treatments that emphasize behavioral therapy over drugs.

Behavioral interventions for insomnia offer "a very powerful strategy" in people over 55, said Michael Irwin, M.D., of UCLA, the lead author of a systematic evidence review. "Their benefits may be greater than pharmacologic treatments, because they can persist for a longer period of time."

Treating insomnia with drugs may impair functioning, create dependency and worsen sleep after they are discontinued, he says.

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Poor sleep is one of the more common complaints among adults, and the prevalence rate among the elderly is almost double that of younger adults. Moreover, researchers are now recognizing the importance of sleep to overall health.

"Insomnia is increasingly implicated as a predictor of cardiovascular and noncardiovascular disease mortality," says the review.

This review is the first in a new series of to be published in Health Psychology. Each evidence-based review will center on a specific psychological assessment or treatment conducted in the context of a physical disease process or risk reduction effort.

The systematic review included 23 randomized controlled trials involving more than 500 participants. The various non-drug treatments

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