Insomnia Help: A Mouse Click Away

Fresno, CA The newest way to fight sleep loss avoids medications altogether -- and for those who don't have the resources to see a counselor, the web may be just as good as the real thing.

We all need it, but a growing epidemic is stealing our sleep. 16-year-old Samantha Privette knows what it's like. "It started, I couldn't sleep through the night, and then, I couldn't get to sleep at all," Samantha Privette explains to Ivanhoe.

Three to four hours of sleep became the norm for this busy student.

"My grades dropped drastically. I had F's and D's at points, and it was just not me," Privette said. While insomnia sufferers filled more than 50-million prescriptions for sleep meds last year, some experts say it's not worth the risk.

"You do develop a dependency with basically every sleep aid that's out there," Akinyemi Ajayi, M.D., medical director at Orlando Pediatric Pulmonary and Sleep Associates in Orlando, Florida explained.

Sleep specialist Dr. Gregg Jacobs, of University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, offers an alternative called cognitive behavioral therapy, a five-week program completed either in person or online. "A lot of people don't have the time or the ability to come over here to the sleep clinic for four or five visits," Dr. Jacobs said.

Some lessons in the program: get up at the same time every day. Keep a sleep diary. Don't stay in bed if you're awake. Instead, get away for 30 minutes. Patients also practice relaxation. "We find a lot of people are actually more comfortable with a computer than interacting with a person." Dr. Jacobs explains.

A recent sleep journal study found 81 percent of participants using online behavior therapy reported improved sleep. Samantha is seeing a counselor and can now sleep through the night.

"I'm making better grades, and I'm able to concentrate more," Privette said.

She is spending less time catching up and more time living life.

Dr. Jacob's program costs $25 and can be found at In-person counseling costs about $100 to $150 per session without insurance. Bluecross and Aetna offer web-based insomnia programs for free.

Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs
UMass Memorial Medical Center
Worcester, MA

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