Online insomnia programs linked to better sleep: researchers

Treating insomnia with digital programs can improve insomnia symptoms.

Online insomnia programs work

A new study from the University of Oxford has found that treating insomnia with digital programs can improve symptoms, daytime functioning and overall health.

In a year-long study involving 1711 people, researchers found online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) improved not only insomnia symptoms, but functional health, psychological well-being and sleep-related quality of life. 

A major limitation of insomnia treatments is the lack of providers to deliver CBT, but this study used an online platform that made it easily accessible to users. It also automated and tailored the treatment based on the user’s sleep patterns. 

Study co-author Associate Professor Jason Ong said there is a four-to-six month wait for an insomnia patient to get an appointment in his sleep clinic.

“We can reach many more patients with insomnia by using a digitally based program,” Assoc. Prof. Ong said.

This week is Sleep Awareness Week and insomnia has been identified as a risk factor for the development of mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

“Sleep ranks with air, water and food as one of the essentials of life, yet 10 to 12 per cent of the population doesn’t get enough of it due to insomnia,” said lead study author Professor Colin Espie.

“Our study suggests that digital medicine could be a powerful way to help millions of people not just sleep better but achieve better mental and physical well-being as a result.” 

Study participants received treatment using the Sleepioprogram and an associated iOS app.

Delivery was structured into six sessions lasting an average of 20 minutes each, with participants having access to the intervention for up to 12 weeks.

Researchers assessed the study participants online at the start, then at four weeks (mid-treatment), eight weeks (post-treatment), and 24 weeks (follow-up). Program content was based on CBT manuals and included behavioural, cognitive and educational components. 

“In clinical studies, digital CBT has repeatedly achieved statistically significant and clinically meaningful results for outcomes including sleep, mental health and daytime functioning,” Prof. Espie said.

“Our latest results indicate that digital CBT can be an effective, inexpensive way to help insomnia sufferers achieve better health over the long term through behaviour change.”

Do you have trouble sleeping? Would you prefer a non-pharmaceutical treatment to improve your sleep?

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    COMMENTS

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    Old Geezer
    2nd Oct 2018
    10:39am
    No brainer if you can't sleep then you re not tired. Get up and do something instead.
    pedro the swift
    2nd Oct 2018
    11:43am
    I agree. Get up and write stupid comments for Life Choices as per the above poster.
    Hardworker
    2nd Oct 2018
    2:22pm
    You two guys obviously don't have persistent insomnia, but maybe only occasional insomnia. I have had insomnia for years. Now that I am retired and enjoying life a lot more doing the things I really want to do I am much better. I have a whole library of books on insomnia and have also researched it on the internet. These are the things I have discovered.
    Insomnia is partly hereditary, so if one of your parents was an insomniac this is probably contributing to your own insomnia, therefore accept it.
    Do not worry about not getting enough sleep as worrying just makes it worse. Don't rail against something that you can't fix, work with it.
    Go to bed and wake up at much the same time every day to form a pattern.
    Make your bedroom very dark. Do not use a computer etc. (bright light) before going to bed.
    Do not eat late at night and do not eat a big meal. The earlier the better.
    Do not use alcohol. It will make you go to sleep but will make you wake within a short time and not be able to get back to sleep.
    Wear yourself out enjoying life and having as much fun as you can.
    Finish all thinking before you go to bed or place a notepad and pen beside your bed in case you think of something you need/want to remember for the next day.
    Reset your circadian clock as many times as you need to in order to develop a regular routine. That means stop eating about 12-13hrs before you want to get up in the morning.
    DO NOT EAT CHOCOLATE OR OTHER STIMULANTS AT NIGHT, A.M. ONLY. One coffee at 10 am will still be affecting you early evening. If, like my former colleagues, you are drinking 6 cups a day, wake up to yourself, the coffee is killing you!
    Accept that older people lose their melatonin levels and don't really sleep as well as when they were young.
    To assist the melatonin levels eat 13-15 nuts per day (definitely no more), mainly walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts. Yes they are expensive but worth it. Do without the alcohol.
    On the really bad nights when you just can't get off to sleep, get up and read a book for a couple of hours if necessary and then try again. These nights will become fewer and fewer in time.
    If you have an unhappy life start changing it. You can do a lot of free little things, like going for a walk, to make yourself positive and be grateful for the life that you do have. There is ALWAYS someone worse off than yourself. Never expect life to be perfect. It isn't for anyone, even if it looks as if it is.
    Experiment and find out what works for you and due to the self focus I bet you will feel a lot better. Don't expect a complete cure, just go with the flow and good luck, you are worth it.
    musicveg
    2nd Oct 2018
    9:18pm
    I agree with cutting out stimulants all together (including alcohol). Although I have not drank alcohol for 18 years I did drink coffee, but I cut all stimulants out including chocolate and black and green tea about 5 or so years ago and have never had trouble sleeping since, no matter what I do in the day or what I eat late.
    flowerpot
    2nd Oct 2018
    2:34pm
    Thank you, Hardworker, for the helpful tips. I wake in the night due to anxiety and arthritis and then can't get back to sleep. Alcohol definitely doesn't help but at the weekends a glass of wine makes life worth living. Didn't think about chocolate!
    musicveg
    2nd Oct 2018
    9:20pm
    Eat well, exercise, and spray some lavender in your room.
    Hardworker
    3rd Oct 2018
    7:35am
    I agree musicveg lavender sprayed above your bed can help relax you and get you off to sleep. Unfortunately staying asleep and not waking too early can be an even bigger problem. There are a variety of cures and that is why I say experiment to see what works for you. The more we talk about it on these forums the more solutions individuals can try so keep up the good work.
    GypsyLiz
    29th Oct 2018
    7:19pm
    Thankyou Hardworker for your summation; a good reminder for this insomniac. Sometimes after a few interrupted nights its difficult not to feel desperate. Pity about the chocolates though.


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