Nonpharmacological interventions for insomnia: a meta-analysis of treatment efficacy

Am J Psychiatry. 1994 Aug;151(8):1172-80. doi: 10.1176/ajp.151.8.1172.


Objective: Because of the role of psychological factors in insomnia, the shortcomings of hypnotic medications, and patients' greater acceptance of nonpharmacological treatments for insomnia, the authors conducted a meta-analysis to examine the efficacy and durability of psychological treatments for the clinical management of chronic insomnia.

Method: A total of 59 treatment outcome studies, involving 2,102 patients, were selected for review on the basis of the following criteria: 1) the primary target problem was sleep-onset, maintenance, or mixed insomnia, 2) the treatment was nonpharmacological, 3) the study used a group design, and 4) the outcome measures included sleep-onset latency, time awake after sleep onset, number of nighttime awakenings, or total sleep time.

Results: Psychological interventions, averaging 5.0 hours of therapy time, produced reliable changes in two of the four sleep measures examined. The average effect sizes (i.e., z scores) were 0.88 for sleep latency and 0.65 for time awake after sleep onset. These results indicate that patients with insomnia were better off after treatment than 81% and 74% of untreated control subjects in terms of sleep induction and sleep maintenance, respectively. Stimulus control and sleep restriction were the most effective single therapy procedures, whereas sleep hygiene education was not effective when used alone. Clinical improvements seen at treatment completion were well maintained at follow-ups averaging 6 months in duration.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that nonpharmacological interventions produce reliable and durable changes in the sleep patterns of patients with chronic insomnia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wakefulness / physiology