Treating insomnia may reduce mental health problems

Posted by pt91 at Sep 07, 2017 03:05 PM |
Study involved University of Leicester academic expertise

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 7 September 2017

Treating insomnia with online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could reduce mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia, according to a large randomised controlled trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The Wellcome-funded study was conducted by researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford and supported by academic expertise at the University of Leicester. It found that sleep disruption is a driving factor in the occurrence of paranoia, hallucinatory experiences, and other mental health problems in young adults (university students) with an average age of 25.

The researchers aimed to improve sleep in these individuals in order to determine the effect on mental health problems such as paranoia (excessive mistrust), anxiety, and depression. 3,755 university students across the UK were randomised into two groups. One group received online cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for insomnia; the other group did not but had access to standard treatments.

This is thought to be the largest ever randomised controlled trial of a psychological treatment for mental health and the first study large enough to determine the effects of treating insomnia on psychotic experiences.

Individuals who received the CBT sleep treatment showed large reductions in insomnia, as well as small, sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences. The treatment also led to improvements in depression, anxiety, nightmares, psychological well-being, and daytime work and home functioning.

Those who received CBT were also less likely over the course of the trial to experience a depressive episode or an anxiety disorder. The research suggests that understanding and treating disrupted sleep could provide a key route for improving mental health.

Professor Terry Brugha, Professor of Psychiatry in the University of Leicester Department of Health Sciences and co-author of the study, said: “This study could represent an original breakthrough in scientific knowledge of the causes and potentially the treatment of severe mental health problems, by means of a harmless, online, self-help programme for sleep disturbance, which is a common issue for this group of people."

The University also facilitated student volunteer access to the trial.

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