A new study found that people who had undertaken a course of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) designed specifically to treat insomnia not only found their sleep improved, but also experienced reduced paranoia and fewer hallucinations – both psychotic experiences – as well as improvements in depression and anxiety.
“The dominant view is that sleep [problems are] either a symptom of several mental health problems or it is a secondary consequence,” said Daniel Freeman, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford. “Really, sleep is one of the contributing causes.”
Writing in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, a team of researchers from institutions across the UK describes how they examined the link between sleep and mental health using online surveys to quiz students from 26 universities up and down the country. Individuals were invited to take part in the study if they were found to have insomnia after answering a web-based questionnaire
In total, more than 3,700 students signed up to the study, with participants randomly split into two groups – those who were offered an online course of six 20-minute sessions of CBT directed at tackling insomnia, and those who received no treatment. Both groups undertook online assessments at the start of the study and after three weeks, 10 weeks and 22 weeks.
The results reveal improvements in both sleep and mental health were greater for members of the CBT group.
“Having insomnia doubles your chances of developing depression and we now know that if you treat insomnia it reduces depression,” said Freeman.
While symptoms of mania increased among those in the sleep treatment group, the team say that could actually reflect increased well-being, since assessments for mania probe factors such as cheerfulness and self-confidence