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Off into dream land

Canadian sleep researcher and clinical psychologist Judith Davidson (Psychology) has taken a method for treating insomnia and introduced it into primary care. The treatment takes a drug-free approach to a condition that reduces quality of life and can cause mental and physical health issues.

“I am introducing this insomnia treatment program to family doctors and other primary care providers because people need access to this treatment right away,” says Dr. Davidson, who works with the Kingston Family Health Team. “With people suffering from chronic insomnia, pharmaceuticals don’t work in the long term.”

Queen's professor Judith Davidson has won a Bright Lights Award.

Despite being considered the preferred treatment for chronic insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is rarely available in Canada. It is a therapy that health-care professionals can learn, and 90 per cent of the first 58 patients in Dr. Davidson’s program no longer reported insomnia after 5 weeks.

“Getting a good night’s sleep doesn’t just relieve stress and make us more productive; it may help prevent medical and mental conditions that can result from long-term insomnia,” explains Dr. Davidson, who recently released a book titled Sink Into Sleep.

Dr. Davidson adds that while more and more practitioners are interested in learning CBT-I, there is still a perception that insomnia is not as important as other sleep disorders and other health conditions. “We hear a lot about sleep apnea, and treatment for that is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. While it’s also a serious problem, more attention needs to be paid to insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder, affecting 15 per cent of the population."

For her work in bringing insomnia treatment to primary care, Dr. Davidson was recently honoured by the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario with a Bright Lights Award for Clinical Innovations in Comprehensive Primary Care. The Bright Lights Awards recognize 12 individuals or groups for their efforts to improve the patient experience and health outcomes, and reduce health-care costs.

Along with Dr. Davidson, the Queen’s Family Health Team also earned the Accountability and Governance for Patient-Centred Care Bright Lights Award for the unique make up of its board of directors. Community members occupy a majority of the seats on the board, which ensures the patients’ voices are heard.