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Cures for Insomnia: What to Believe

“Try Aunt Martha’s Special Blend and you’ll get the best sleep of your life!”

Are you kidding me?

I’m sure Aunt Martha is a wonderful person. Maybe even just being around her or thinking about her has enough soothing qualities to assist anyone’s sleep. But should I really believe that somehow, Aunt Martha has come across a magic formula for curing insomnia?

Our world is obsessed with claims of being the “greatest” or “best” or “biggest” or most “amazing”. From medicinal cures to sports figures, buildings, hamburgers, pies, you name it. Someone always wants to make some fantastic claim yet, given our experience, we must take our time to listen and evaluate.

Exaggerated, vague, or loosely optimistic statements about medical treatments for sleeplessness and insomnia should raise concern. Insomnia is one of the most prevalent medical disorders–not quite as common as the common cold–but more common than diabetes, and as common as coronary heart disease. Unlike some silent medical disorders, insomnia comes with great personal distress due to the pain of not being able to sleep at night, and the daytime suffering that a poor night’s sleep can cause. In addition, there are no perfect cures for insomnia. The recognized medical treatments that exist, such as sleeping pills, can be fraught with unpleasant side effects that make patients wary of getting started on them. The suffering from insomnia is great and the “wish” for a magical cure is often greater. This combination sets up the average insomnia sufferer to be at a high risk for falling for false claims of a cure.

So, what are the facts in these instances? How are they evaluated? In the field of medicine, the accepted way of assessing these truths is by performing a “clinical trial”. In a standard clinical trial, individuals are given either what is considered an “active” treatment or a “control” treatment (or placebo), something that has no intended effect on their health or wellbeing. In some medical disorders, such as depression or anxiety and insomnia, simply the “belief” that a participant might be getting some treatment can have a beneficial impact on their condition. To be determined to be “effective”, the active treatment must be even more effective than the placebo. All of the observed effects from both groups are subject to rigorous statistical tests that determine the likelihood that the results are due to things that are greater than chance, proving the significance of the findings.

To aid both medical professionals and consumers on the “facts” regarding various remedies, professional medical societies often ask a panel of experts in a field to review the clinical trial information on specific remedies and make that information public. In 2008, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) gathered a panel of experts to review all major findings on insomnia treatment. The following is a summation of some of their findings

Over-the-counter sleep medications  The active ingredient in many of these drugs is antihistamine. Evidence for their efficacy and safety is very limited, with very few available studies from the past 10 years using contemporary study designs and outcomes. Antihista¬mines have the potential for serious side effects and many can experience drowsiness that lasts longer than the amount of time they intended to sleep.

Natural Remedies  Very few herbal or alternative treatments have been systematically evaluated for the treatment of insomnia. Of these, the greatest amount of evidence is available regarding valerian extracts and melatonin.

Melatonin: Based on a large number of clinical trials, melatonin has demonstrated a small effect on the time it takes to get to sleep but little effect on waking after sleep or total sleep time. Some studies established efficacy in treating Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) which is a disorder in which a person’s sleep is delayed by 2 or more hours beyond the socially acceptable or conventional bedtime.

Valerian extracts: Available evidence suggests that valerian has small but consistent effects on the time it takes to fall asleep, with inconsistent on effects on sleep continuity, sleep duration, and sleep quality.

The panel concluded that, “Over-the-counter antihistamine or antihistamine/analgesic type drugs (OTC “sleep aids”) as well as herbal and nutritional substances (e.g., valerian and melatonin) are not recommended in the treatment of chronic insomnia due to the relative lack of efficacy and safety data.”

Alcohol  Because alcohol disrupts sleep quality, has a short duration of action, and has potential for abuse and dependence, it is not recommended as an insomnia treatment.

Pharmacologic Treatment  Short-term hypnotic treatment (prescribed sleeping pills) should be supplemented with behavioral and cognitive therapies when possible. Prescription sleeping pills can have serious side effects such as sleep behaviors without memory, including sleep walking, sleep driving, and next day impairment. They can also be habit forming. The ultimate decision on the suitability of medication for insomnia must be made by the clinician and the patient.

Behavioral Intervention – Psychological and behavioral interventions are effective and recommended in the treatment of chronic insomnia. Initial approaches to treatment should include at least one behavioral intervention. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBTI), Relaxation Training, Stimulus Control Therapy are patient-care strategies which reflect a high degree of clinical certainty.

New therapies – As new therapies for insomnia are brought to market, it is important to work with your doctor to assess the clinical evidence on effectiveness and safety of a product for your specific situation.

At Ebb Therapeutics, we have spent five years in product development, refinements, and clinical testing to obtain clearance from the Food and Drug Association (FDA) for Ebb Insomnia Therapy. Ebb is a wearable insomnia therapy that comfortably cools the forehead, helps quiet the racing mind, and enhances the ability to sleep. Three independent clinical studies were conducted on more than 230 patients over 3,800 nights to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of Ebb Insomnia Therapy.

It is important to listen to the guidance of our elders, and we’re sure that Aunt Martha wants nothing but the best for you. However, when it comes to getting “the best sleep of your life,” remember to cast a discerning eye on the evidence that supports the claims.

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