Clinical Inquiries

Can CBT effectively treat adult insomnia disorder?

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Yes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) administered individually, in a group setting, or on the internet is effective for treating insomnia in adults compared with control (strength of recommendation [SOR]: A, meta-analyses).

CBT is comparable to pharmacotherapy for improving measures of sleep (SOR: A, comparative meta-analysis).

CBT produces sustainable improvements in subjective sleep quality for adults with comorbid insomnia (SOR: A, meta-analysis).




Three meta-analyses that included only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) compared various CBT delivery methods with controls (wait-listed for treatment or general sleep hygiene education) to assess sleep outcomes for adults with insomnia.1-3 TABLE 11-3 summarizes the results.

CBT outcomes for insomnia

CBT is comparable to pharmacotherapy

A 2002 comparative meta-analysis of 21 RCTs with a total of 470 patients examined the effectiveness of CBT (stimulus control and/or sleep restriction) compared with pharmacotherapy (benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine agonists) for treating primary insomnia of longer than one month’s duration in adults with no comorbid medical or psychiatric diagnoses.4 The CBT group received intervention over an average of 5 weeks, and the pharmacotherapy group received intervention over an average of 2 weeks.

CBT produced greater reductions in sleep onset latency than pharmacotherapy based on mean weighted effect size (1.05 vs 0.45 weighted effect size; 95% confidence interval, 0.17-1.04; P=.01). Although both CBT and pharmacotherapy improved sleep outcomes, no statistical differences were found in wake after sleep onset time, total sleep time, number of awakenings, or sleep quality ratings (TABLE 24).

How pharmacotherapy compares with CBT for persistent insomnia

Continue to: CBT has significant benefit for comorbid insomnia


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