The treatments of chronic insomnia: a review of benzodiazepine receptor agonists and psychological and behavioral therapies

Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Jun;13(3):205-14. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2008.06.001. Epub 2009 Feb 7.


The present review provides an assessment of the efficacy and safety of benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BZRAs) and psychological and behavioral interventions for insomnia. These methods include relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene rules, stimulus control, sleep restriction and cognitive techniques, often also referred to as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) when encompassing cognitive strategies and at least one kind of behavioral intervention. In order to provide a comprehensive assessment of the literature regarding the efficacy and safety of these standard treatments for insomnia, an integrative synthesis of the existing meta-analytic studies for each of the various treatment modalities was conducted. Where meta-analytic studies were not available, data from double-blind placebo-controlled randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included. The summary findings from this review are (1) BZRAs and psychological and behavioral methods are effective to treat insomnia in the short-term and the latter have significantly more durable effects when active treatment is discontinued; and (2) there is only very limited evidence that BZRAs retain their efficacy during long-term treatment. The present review underscores the need for further research regarding the comparative efficacy and safety of these treatments for insomnia, how this varies with age and comorbidity, and how the various treatment modalities impact (1) daytime functioning, (2) quality of life, (3) health care utilization; and (4) pharmacoeconomics. Finally, it is particularly important that studies be conducted to determine if successful insomnia treatment influences the clinical course of the diseases that often occur co-morbidly with sleep continuity disturbance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Receptors, GABA-A