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?

Written by Ben

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