photo of a woman with insomnia
A short session of 'brain training' using cognitive behavioural threapy could help nearly 3/4 of insomniacs.

One hour of therapy to cure insomnia?

3 June, 2015

Natural Health News – New research has found that a simple one-hour therapy session has helped to cure 73% of people suffering from acute insomnia.

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

The findings, in the journal SLEEP, are especially important because chronic insomnia can make us more vulnerable to the onset of depression.

What you need to know

» Approximately one third of the adult population reports symptoms of insomnia, with 10% suffering from an insomnia disorder.

» Treating insomnia before it becomes a chronic problem can help reduce rates of depression.

» A single therapy session focused on beneficial behavioural changes was found to cure 73% of cases of insomnia

» Cognitive behavioural therapy is an inexpensive and effective way to treat insomnia and improve quality of life.

A prescription for sleep

For the study 40 adults who were experiencing sleep problems but not taking any medication for the problem, were divided into two groups. None had previously received cognitive behavioural therapy. One group received treatment of a one-hour one-to-one cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) session and a self-help pamphlet to read at home. The control group received no additional support.

The therapy session covered sleep education and individual differences in ‘sleep need’ at different times of life and 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.

After treatment there was a significant difference between the group that had received CBT 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%.

Only 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 control group requested that they also be given the same treatment.

A quality of life issue

Approximately one third of the adult population reports symptoms of insomnia, with 10% suffering from an insomnia disorder. 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. People with insomnia are also more prone to depression.

Lead researchers Jason Ellis, a Professor of Sleep Science in Northumbria University’s Department of Psychology noted there are numerous advantages to treating insomnia early: “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.”