73 percent of insomniacs cured after 1-hour therapy session

June 2, 2015
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/public domain

A simple one-hour therapy session has helped to cure 73% of people suffering from acute insomnia, according to a new study from Northumbria University released today.

In the first ever study to attempt to treat in the acute phase – before it becomes chronic – researchers found that almost three-quarters of participants saw improvements in the quality of their sleep within three months following a 60-minute session.

The findings, which have been published today (Monday 1 June) in the international journal Sleep, are especially important as those transitioning from acute to are particularly vulnerable to the onset of depression due to the condition.

People with insomnia report consistent issues with the quality, duration or continuity of their sleep patterns. They may find it difficult to fall asleep, struggle to go back to sleep on waking during the night or wake early which can lead to problems with attention, concentration, mood and memory. Approximately one third of the adult population reports symptoms of insomnia, with 10% suffering from an insomnia disorder.

The study was led by Jason Ellis, a Professor of Sleep Science in Northumbria University's Department of Psychology. Professor Ellis is also the Director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research.

Forty adults who reported that they had suffered from insomnia for less than three months and who were not currently taking medication to aid their sleep took part. None had previously received cognitive behavioural therapy.

The participants were separated into two groups, each featuring nine males and eleven females. All used sleep diaries to record the quality and duration of their sleep for seven days before treatment and completed the Insomnia Severity Index which measures the nature, severity and impact of insomnia. One group received treatment of a one-hour one-to-one cognitive behavioural delivered by Professor Ellis and a self-help pamphlet to read at home. The control group received no additional support.

After treatment there was a significant difference between the group that had received cognitive behavioural therapy and the control group. Within one month of the therapy session, 60% of participants reported improvements in their sleep quality. Within three months, this had increased to 73%.

Meanwhile just 15% of those in the control group, who had not received the therapy, reported improved sleep. On seeing the results, 70% of those in the requested that they also be given the same treatment.

The therapy session covered sleep education and individual differences in 'sleep need' at different times of life. Professor Ellis then introduced the principle of sleep restriction, which encourages the individual to spend only the time in bed required for sleep. Using their recorded sleep diaries, the individuals were then prescribed a time to go to bed and a time to rise to improve their sleep efficiency.

The self-help pamphlet used a "3D" message which represented three actions for the individual to recognise and act upon the symptoms of insomnia: 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.

Professor Ellis said: "Despite considerable evidence supporting the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for chronic insomnia, it remained untested for acute insomnia until this study.

"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. It is also a highly prevalent and largely unrelenting condition, so anything we can do to stop acute insomnia developing to the chronic stage will be of real benefit.

"The results of our study clearly showed that a single therapy session had successful results, with an improvement in quality for some 60% of those with acute insomnia within one month. The longer-term benefits were even better with almost three quarters of those who received the intervention not developing chronic insomnia.

"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. This becomes more pertinent when the costs associated with other illnesses, such as depression, for which insomnia is known to be a risk factor, are taken into account."

Northumbria University achieved one of the largest rises in research rated as 'world-leading' and 'internationally excellent' by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. 73% of all Psychology-related research from the University has been rated as 'world-leading' in terms of impact bringing societal, cultural and economic benefit.

Explore further: Impaired sleep linked to lower pain tolerance

More information: "Treating Acute Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a "Single-Shot" of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia" Sleep dx.doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4752

Related Stories

Impaired sleep linked to lower pain tolerance

April 30, 2015
People with insomnia and other sleep problems have increased sensitivity to pain, reports a study published in Pain, the official publication of the International Association for the Study of Pain.

Power naps for insomniacs

January 23, 2015
Daytime naps may hold the key to treating insomnia, Flinders University researchers believe.

Cognitive behavioral therapy best for cancer patients with insomnia

January 9, 2014
(HealthDay)—Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is the preferred choice over mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for nonpharmacologic management of insomnia in patients with cancer, according to a study ...

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can reduce health care utilization and costs

February 14, 2014
A new study is the first to show decreases in health care utilization and costs following brief treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).

Children's sleep and mental health are related

May 6, 2015
Toddlers who take a long time to fall asleep or wake up many times during the night have put many a desperate mom and dad to the test. Tired parents are often told that night waking is part of toddlerhood, and that it will ...

Findings on insomnia in children and cancer

December 17, 2014
College of Nursing colleagues Ellyn Matthews, PhD, RN, AOCNS, CBSM, Madalynn Neu, PhD, RN, and Paul Cook, PhD, have published research findings on sleep among children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and their mothers.

Recommended for you

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

Researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations

September 20, 2017
First, the good news. Washington State University researchers have found that a rat exposed to a popular herbicide while in the womb developed no diseases and showed no apparent health effects aside from lower weight.

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...

India has avoided 1 million child deaths since 2005, new study concludes

September 19, 2017
India has avoided about 1 million deaths of children under age five since 2005, driven by significant reductions in mortality from pneumonia, diarrhea, tetanus and measles, according to new research published today.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers

September 19, 2017
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.