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J Clin Sleep Med. 2012 Dec 15;8(6):681-91. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.2264.

Use of relaxation techniques and complementary and alternative medicine by American adults with insomnia symptoms: results from a national survey.

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Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Brookline, MA 02446, USA.



Though relaxation training is recommended for insomnia, national patterns of use remain unknown. Similarly, rates of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by adults with insomnia are not well established. We sought to elucidate the patterns and reasons for use of relaxation techniques and CAM use by adults with insomnia symptoms.


We used the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (n = 23,358) to estimate prevalence of use among adults by self-reported insomnia symptom status. Among adults reporting insomnia symptoms (n = 4,415), we examined reasons for use and disclosure to medical professionals. We employed logistic regression to determine the adjusted associations between relaxation techniques use, CAM use, and insomnia symptoms.


Among adults with insomnia symptoms, 23% used relaxation techniques and 45% used CAM annually. After adjustment, adults with insomnia symptoms had higher likelihood of using relaxation techniques (aOR 1.48, 95% CI 1.32, 1.66) and CAM (aOR 1.29, 95% CI 1.15, 1.44) compared with adults without insomnia. Deep breathing exercise was the most commonly used relaxation technique. Fewer than 2% of adults with insomnia used CAM specifically for insomnia. Only 26% of adults with insomnia symptoms disclosed their relaxation techniques use to medical professionals. Being male, lower educational and physical activity levels, income < $20,000, living in South, and hypertension were associated with lower likelihood of relaxation techniques use among adults with insomnia symptoms.


While adults with insomnia symptoms commonly use relaxation techniques and CAM, few are using for their insomnia. Facilitating discussions about relaxation techniques may foster targeted use for insomnia.

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