Brief Behavioural Treatment Improves Chronic Sleep Disturbance in Elderly Adults

17th February 2011 by Simon Kyle

Sleep news Sleep science

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have recently published a study detailing the benefits of a behavioural intervention in improving sleep in older adults.

The study team, led by Dr. Dan Buysse, randomly allocated 79 elderly patients with chronic insomnia (including those with insomnia and other co-occurring medical and psychiatric illness) to receive either the brief behavioural intervention or an ‘information control’ intervention. Although some of the information overlapped in the two therapies, the crucial ingredient in the ‘active’ treatment group (those treated with behavioural therapy) was the tailoring and prescription of a strict bed- and wake-time routine for each patient.

The group receiving the brief behavioural intervention reported, at post-treatment, robust reductions in time taken to fall asleep and amount of wake-time during the night, as well as improved ratings of sleep quality, relative to the control group. Most important, however, was that by the end of the intervention, 55% of patients receiving the behavioural intervention were considered to have ‘no insomnia’, compared with just 13% of the control group. On the whole, these sleep improvements were sustained at 6 months follow-up and significant improvements were also found for ratings of depression and self-perceived health.

Access to such therapies for elderly adults is particularly important given the high prevalence of sleep disturbance in this population, often coupled with elevated prescription rates of sleeping pills – which have been frequently associated with increased risk of falls and hip fractures. Making Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CBT) for insomnia deliverable in a brief manner, reducing cost and expertise associated with implementation, was also a major aim of the trial.

Sleepio’s Professor Colin Espie commented on the study: “This work provides further evidence that cognitive behavioural therapy is the treatment of choice for effectively alleviating chronic insomnia and, crucially, that it can be delivered in a cost-effective and brief manner.”

Link: Archives of Internal Medicine

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