By Stephanie Stahl

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sleep trouble affects millions of Americans. Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl joins has more on a treatment that studies show can be just effective as medication.

Insomnia can be short lasting, or chronic. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems. But for those who want to avoid medication, a certain therapy may be able to help.

Geoffrey Childs has suffered with insomnia for years, making it difficult to function during the day.

“I would have fragmented sleep of an hour and half at a time,” said Geoffrey.

Then he tried cognitive behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, with a Sleep Specialist.

To start, Dr. Shelby Harris helps patients change their behaviors. She says people with insomnia should eliminate caffeine in the afternoon, exercise late in the day, and try to wind down an hour before bed–without TV.

Next comes the cognitive part of the therapy, which includes relaxation techniques, such as meditation.

“We’ll teach them ways to quiet their minds and also not worry as much about sleep,” said Dr. Harris.

Research shows that talk therapy can be just as effective as medications to treat insomnia. If left untreated, serious health problems can arise.

“Problems with memory, attention, concentration, increased risk of stroke, heart attack, increased risk of accidents,” said Dr. Harris.

After six months of therapy, Geoffrey now gets six hours of sleep a night.

“I work better. I have more energy,” said Geoffrey.

Doctors also recommend that people with insomnia not nap during the day and have a regular sleep schedule.

For more information on insomnia, click here.

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