National Sleep Foundation

Chapter 2: Insomnia

Insomnia Treatment: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy — Relaxation Therapy

Active relaxation techniques are optimal to manage insomnia. These include practices such as yoga and meditation, in which the individual actively participates in a behavior or imagery to manage his or her arousal. (Passive relaxation techniques include watching TV or listening to music.) These techniques help address insomnia by focusing on breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (i.e., tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups). Guided Imagery, in which the person develops a peaceful scene in which to imagine themselves, is also a very successful technique.1

Patients with insomnia typically need about six individual sessions with a therapist to learn these relaxation techniques.2, 3, 4, 5 


  1. Morin CM. Cognitive-behavioral approaches to the treatment of insomnia. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;65(suppl 16):33-40.
  2. Edinger JD, Hoelscher TJ, Marsh GR, Lipper S, Ionescu-Pioggia M. A cognitive-behavioral therapy for sleep-maintenance insomnia in older adults. Psychol Aging. 1992;7:282-289.
  3. Morin CM, Colecchi C, Stone J, Sood R, Brink D. Behavioral and pharmacological therapies for late-life insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 1999;281:991-999.
  4. Edinger JD, Wohlgemuth WK, Radtke RA, March GR, Quillian RE. Cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of chronic primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2001;285:1856-1864.
  5. Edinger JD, Wohlgemuth WK, Krystal AD, Rice JR. Behavioral insomnia therapy for fibromyalgia patients: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:2527-2535.