Is Insomnia Treatment Nothing More Than a Placebo?

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | March 27, 2017


The findings of a new study suggest that when it comes to insomnia, the solution may be as simple as tricking your brain into thinking you are treating your insomnia even when you aren’t.

The placebo effect has fascinated scientists for decades, but its influence is rarely explored when it comes to our sleep cycle. Up until very recently, drug therapies, neurofeedback training and other treatments that interact with the body’s biochemistry were the go-to solutions.

Study Reveals Placebo Is as Effective as Neurofeedback Training

A study that was recently published in Brain compares the effectiveness of neurofeedback training versus the placebo effect. The study’s twenty-five participants were all patients diagnosed with primary insomnia. They were subjected to twelve sessions of neurofeedback training and twelve placebo sessions. All sessions were conducted in the researchers’ laboratory, as was the testing that determined the results of the sessions. The testing included having the participants report on whether they felt their insomnia was improving.

So, what does this mean?

Based on the reports of the participants, the researchers concluded that the neurofeedback sessions were perceived by participants as no more effective than the placebo sessions where no treatment was provided. If the participants were under the impression that they were receiving treatment, then they would report feeling an improvement in their symptoms.

What Can We Learn From This?

We often think of insomnia as an issue that requires chemical intervention, whether it’s through supplements or more intensive drugs, but as the current research reveals, beating insomnia and feeling well-rested doesn’t have to mean changing your body biochemistry so drastically.

The success of the placebo effect in this instance suggests that less invasive remedies like changing your bedtime routine or making a habit of consuming sleep-friendly foods can be enough to get your sleep schedule back on track.

The next time you find yourself battling sleepless nights, see if you can employ the power of the placebo to give natural sleep solutions a boost. Start a bedtime ritual that involves consuming foods that are high in ingredients like tryptophan like Zenbev’s zzzBar or RestBites. If you prefer your sleep remedies in beverage form, try our Drink Mix. Before bed, treat yourself to these natural sleep remedies and actively remind yourself that these sleep aids have been specially designed to cause sleepiness and should help combat your insomnia.

Looking for more ways to get a good night’s sleep? Read up about sleep, insomnia cures and why you should make sleep a priority on the Zenbev blog