Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway assessed the quality and quantity of sleep for 46 people over the age of 55 who suffered from insomnia. Patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), zopiclone (a sleeping drug), or placebo. Participants received treatment for six weeks, and afterwards researchers tracked their progress for the next six months.
In the period following treatment, the CBT group increased the amount of time spent in bed actually sleeping from 81 percent at the beginning of the study, to 90 percent at the conclusion. Patients also increased the length of time spent in the deepest stages of sleep.
Zopiclone, sold under the trade name Imovane, actually worsened insomnia for most patients. During the study, sleep efficiency dropped from 82.3 percent to 81.9 percent for patients in the zopiclone group.
CBT is a method of counseling that stresses thinking and behavior modification. Each week, patients in the CBT group participated in 50-minute counseling sessions, learning about lifestyle factors that influence sleep. Participants were encouraged to stick to a strict sleep schedule and use progressive relaxation techniques, among other behavioral modifications.