Sleep Disorders

20 July 2015

Talking found to be therapeutic for insomniacs

A new analysis has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia reduced insomnia symptoms and sleep disturbances.


Talk therapy may help treat insomnia in people with physical or mental health problems, a new study suggests.

Negative thoughts and feelings

With cognitive behavioural therapy, people talk to a therapist to identify the negative thoughts and feelings that cause them problems, and to learn ways to solve their problems, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Past studies have found cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia can improve sleep. But, many of those studies didn't include people with psychiatric and medical conditions.

For the new study, researchers from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago looked at 37 previous studies. The research included nearly 2,200 people and looked at cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in people who had depression, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder and/or with medical conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

The new analysis showed that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia reduced insomnia symptoms and sleep disturbances. Twice as many people who received the therapy no longer had insomnia, compared to people who didn't have the therapy, the researchers said.

Read: Therapy best for insomnia

Cognitive behavioural therapy was also associated with positive effects on co-existing psychiatric and medical conditions, but it showed the strongest benefit with psychiatric disorders.

This may be due to a stronger link between psychiatric disorders and insomnia, the researchers said.

The findings provide support for using talk therapy as a treatment for insomnia in people who have other psychiatric conditions, study author Jason Ong, a behavioural sleep medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Centre, and colleagues concluded in a university news release.

The findings were published online July in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read more:

Good deeds can improve your social anxiety

Knee osteoarthritis pain worst for those with insomnia 

Behavioural therapy can improve insomnia without drugs 

Image: Psychologist and a patient from Shutterstock


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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