Emerson M. Wickwire, PhD, explains new medical guidelines that call for cognitive-behavioral treatment as the first line of treatment to The Baltimore Sun.

Is insomnia normally treated with drugs or behavioral therapy, or both?

The most common treatments for insomnia are sleep medications called sedative hypnotics. Most of these drugs work by stimulating the brain’s sleep system. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a number of medications for insomnia, and many medications are also often prescribed off-label for sleep. There are a few problems, however. First, all medications carry risk of side effects, and many patients prefer nondrug approaches when available. Second, no pill can teach your body how to sleep. Third, a very specific nondrug sleep training approach called cognitive-behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBTI) has been shown to be equally effective to sleep medications in the short-term, with gains significantly better maintained over time.