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A good night's sleep

New research from Judith Davidson shows behavioural therapy helps fight chronic insomnia.

The battle against chronic insomnia is one that 12 per cent of Canadians fight every night. New research from Queen’s University’s Judith Davidson (Psychology) has shown group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) in a primary care setting is effective in treating insomnia. This is the first study of group CBT-I offered as part of routine care in a North American primary care setting.

New research from Judith Davidson could help fight chronic insomnia.

“These results have important implications for health care across the country,” says Dr. Davidson. “Insomnia, if left untreated, can lead to major depression, Type 2 diabetes, more sick days and car accidents. Medication works in the short term and drugs do help with occasional sleepless nights but we need to properly treat chronic insomnia or it’s never really cured.”

Multicomponent CBT-I typically includes sleep restriction therapy, stimulus control therapy, cognitive therapy and relaxation training provided in five or six sessions. In her study of the first 81 patients who received group CBT-I as part of routine care, 88 per cent reported no clinical insomnia after five weeks of treatment.

While the positive effects of CBT-I are obvious, bringing that therapy to chronic insomnia sufferers across Canada is a challenge, according to Dr. Davidson. The treatment is not covered by provincial health plans and primary care physicians do not have the time to deliver CBT-I therapy in a group setting – despite them often being the first point of contact for people looking for help with chronic insomnia.

“I have been working with the Kingston Family Health Team to provide this treatment right in primary care, but this is rare,” says Dr. Davidson. “Outside of primary care teams, the treatment has a cost which makes it unattainable for many people. This research shows how the treatment can be integrated into primary care and is a starting point for determining how best to bring CBT-I to more patients across the country.”

The research was published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine and co-authored by Samantha Dawson and Adrijana Krsmanovic, both doctoral students in Queen’s clinical psychology graduate program.