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Single Therapy Session Helps Cure Acute Insomnia

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 07 Jun 2015
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A simple one-hour cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session has helped to cure 73% of people suffering from acute insomnia, according to a new study.

Researchers at Northumbria University (Newcastle, United Kingdom) conducted a pragmatic parallel group randomized controlled trial involving 40 adults (mean age 33 years) defined as suffering from acute insomnia disorder, who reported no previous exposure to CBT for insomnia and who were not currently taking any medication for sleep. Participants were equally randomized to two groups, with nine males and eleven females in each. The study group underwent a single 60–70 minute session of CBT, with an accompanying self-help pamphlet; the control group had no treatment.

The CBT session included sleep education and instruction on individual differences in “sleep need” at different times of life. The researchers also introduced the principle of sleep restriction, which encourages the individual to spend only the time in bed required for actual sleep. All participants completed sleep diaries and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) survey a week before therapy, and based on their recorded sleep diaries, were then prescribed a time to go to bed and a time to rise to improve sleep efficiency.

The participants continued to maintain their sleep diaries and completed another ISI survey one month following treatment. The results showed that were no between-group differences on baseline ISI scores or subjective sleep continuity. But within one month of the therapy session, 60% of the participants in the CBT group reported improvements in their sleep quality; within three months, this had increased to 73%. In the control group, just 15% reported improved sleep. The study was published on June 1, 2105, in SLEEP.

“Chronic insomnia is a considerable health burden both on the individual and the economy, and has been linked to the development of, or worsening of, a number of physical and psychiatric conditions,” said lead author professor of sleep science Jason Ellis, PhD, director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research. “There are numerous advantages to treating insomnia during an acute phase. If successful there is potential for significant savings in terms of long-term healthcare, lost productivity and accidents.”

The self-help pamphlet handed out to participants presented a strategy involving the three actions needed for the individual to recognize and act upon the symptoms of insomnia. These included Detect—how to record their sleep diary; Detach—how to control stimulus that could lead to disrupted sleep; and Distract—instructions on how to use cognitive control and imagery to distract their mind.

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