Study Reveals That Behavioral Sleep Training Can Help Lower Depression in Adults With Insomnia

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”We have shown that we can actually target insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy and prevent depression from occurring," said Dr.Michael Irwin, the author of the study.

A new clinical study reveals that cognitive-behavioral sleep training may help prevent depression in older adults with insomnia, according to researchers, CNN reported.

The study teaches those suffering from insomnia tools on how to break habits that may be interfering with a good night's sleep and retraining your mind and body for some Z's. 

Sleep specialist Wendy Troxel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, who was not involved in the study told CNN that the study’s findings are "highly significant.”

Major depression is very common among older adults and "is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, disability, suicide, and all-cause mortality," Troxel explained. 

“What is exciting about these findings is that they are among the first to demonstrate that treating insomnia with a behavioral strategy, not a pill, can prevent the development of depression in older adults,” Troxel said.

Many studies have cited insomnia as the major risk factor for depression. The study’s author Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said “some 30% to 50% of older adults complain of insomnia," CNN reported.

The study's findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Participants in the randomized clinical study who received cognitive behavior therapy for their insomnia were two times less likely to develop depression. Irwin added that if remission from insomnia was sustained for three years, “there was an 83% reduction in the likelihood of developing depression.”

"That's why this study is so important," Irwin said. ”We have shown that we can actually target insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy and prevent depression from occurring."

Adults over age 60, all with insomnia but no depression, were randomly put into two groups. A control group would meet once a week over an eight-week period and receive basic sleep education, which taught sleep hygiene, characteristics of healthy sleep, sleep biology, and how stress can impact sleep. Irwin said there was no one-on-one training and participants had to “take that information and figure out how to use it without our help.”

Meanwhile, the other group received a form of behavioral sleep training called CBT-1, which was administered in person in a group setting by trained therapists for eight weeks.

CBT-I has five components: Stimulus control, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, relaxation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Sleep hygiene and relaxation involve good sleep habits — going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, eliminating blue light and noise, taking warm baths or doing yoga for relaxation, and keeping the bedroom cool and free of electronic devices.


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