Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation or CES is a treatment modality that involves the application of a very low level of electricity to the brain via ear clip electrodes.  This modality has been utilized in the US since the early 1980’s and has gained popularity in recent years as the public becomes more aware of the harmful side effects and addictive properties associated with medications used to treat insomnia. 

CES is FDA cleared to treat insomnia, anxiety and depression and takes only 20-60 minutes a couple times a week.  A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 reported that regular users of sleep medications had a nearly five-fold increased risk of early death.  Even those patients who two pills or fewer a month are three times more likely to die than non-users of the drug.  

In contrast to the regularly prescribed sleep medications, CES is extremely safe with less than 1% of patients reporting a side effect and the most being a mild headache that occurs in about 1 in 1000 patients.  The treatment is also non-addictive and can be used while patients are trying to reduce their dependence on other medications. 

One double-blind, randomized clinical trial using Alpha-Stim® CES technology found that CES significantly decreased insomnia when compared to usual care (Taylor, 2011). Another small, double-blind, randomized, 5-day pilot study of military Service Members using Alpha-Stim® CES technology reported mixed results (Lande, 2012). The treatment group had significantly improved sleep on day 1 and day 4 of the study and an average of 43 more minutes of sleep a night was reported after only 5 treatments. 

There are several CES devices on the market and just like medications, these devices differ in efficacy.  It is advisable to spend some time to ensure the device has clear research and safety data available.  It is required that CES is ordered by a licensed healthcare professional so speak to your provider to find out more about this safe and effective treatment option.