A type of sleep therapy reduces depression, anxiety and paranoia

A man sat-up in bed
Not getting enough sleep?

A type of therapy originally designed for insomnia has been found to also help a range of mental health issues, including negative thoughts, anxiety, depression and psychosis.

Daniel Freeman, at the University of Oxford, and his colleagues have been testing Sleepio, a type of cognitive behavioural therapy available online. The ten-week course is intended to restore healthy sleep patterns in people with insomnia, and Freeman wanted to see if it could also relieve other problems.

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His team asked nearly 1900 students who have difficulty sleeping to try using Sleepio, and nearly 1870 others to try following standard advice for insomnia. Both groups filled in questionnaires beforehand that assessed their sleep patterns, as well as tendencies to experience paranoia and hallucinations. They repeated these questionnaires at three, ten and 22 weeks into the experiment.

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Reduced depression

Overall, those using Sleepio slept 50 per cent better than the control group, says Freeman. Compared to this group, the Sleepio users also had a 30 per cent reduction in hallucinations, 25 per cent reduction in paranoia, and their anxiety and depression levels were 20 per cent lower.

Statistical analysis revealed that improved sleep was itself accountable for up to 60 per cent of these additional benefits to mental health. “If you have problems sleeping, we know it affects the way you think, giving you more fearful and depressive thoughts and more rumination – all consistent with a dip in mood,” says Freeman.

The study provides some evidence that better sleep can improve paranoia and hallucinations, says Derk-Jan Dijk, of the University of Surrey, UK. However, the findings don’t show whether sleep CBT is better than other existing treatments for these.

Nevertheless, people with mental health conditions might be more willing to try sleep CBT because it’s milder and carries less stigma than standard treatments, says Dijk.

Journal reference: The Lancet Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30328-0

By | 2017-09-13T19:20:02+00:00 September 7th, 2017|ENG, News, The New Scientist|0 Comments

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