Due to a variety of potential problems with long-term hypnotic use, patients and treating physicians often try to avoid drugs in the treatment of psychophysiologic insomnia and to use nondrug treatment strategies, but these treatments must bring relief within a limited amount of time to be acceptable to patients.
Thirty patients participated in the study. All had, for a minimum of 6 months, the complaint of less than 6 hours total sleep time per night in conjunction with either: (1) spending more than 30 minutes in bed before falling asleep, or (2) awakening during the night within 2 hours of sleep onset with difficulty returning to sleep. All subjects had the associated complaint of daytime impairment and none had used hypnotics for at least 3 months. Patients were randomly assigned to three parallel treatment groups: structured sleep hygiene, structured sleep hygiene with late afternoon moderate exercise, and structured sleep hygiene with early morning light therapy. Patients responded to questionnaires and filled out sleep logs. In addition, they underwent clinical evaluation, structured interviews, nocturnal monitoring, and actigraphy. The analyzed variables before and at the end of treatment were those derived from sleep logs and actigraphy.
All subjects showed a trend toward improvement, independent of the treatment received, but only the "structured sleep hygiene with light treatment" showed statistically significant improvement at the end of the trial.
Patients with chronic psychophysiologic insomnia may benefit from a nondrug treatment approach. Light therapy appears particularly promising.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:838-844)