A self-help training programme for insomnia sufferers, developed by researchers, has been adopted and rolled out by NHS across the UK.

Impacts

  • While the trial was still in progress, Professor Kevin Morgan was asked by Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust in May 2009 to train NHS therapists in CBT for insomnia.
  • As a result, the researchers turned their training programmes into a whole course on delivering CBT-I, which they offered to the National Health Service in August 2009.
  • Since August 2009 they have trained therapists in CBT-I in health authorities in Oxfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Berkshire and Leicestershire. New courses are planned for Oxford (in January 2013) and South Yorkshire (November, 2012).
  • Following a request from Parkinson's UK in September 2009, they trained every Parkinson's disease nurse specialist in Scotland from June 2010 to Sept 2011.

About the research

Over ten per cent of people in Britain suffer from insomnia, yet the only treatment offered in most doctors' surgeries is a course of sleeping tablets. Known to increase as people grow older, insomnia is often connected with a long-term illness. However, among these patients, doctors have found sleeping drugs bring only minor benefits, and pose a significant risk of harm.

Researchers at Loughborough University have shown that self-help sleep management, based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can improve sleep quality and duration without unwanted side effects. Their trials involved people over the age of 55 with insomnia symptoms related to a chronic disease.

Patients were given six weekly booklets that explained how sleep works and how to gain control of it. They were also given access to a helpline, staffed by 'expert patients' who were themselves insomnia sufferers with long-term illnesses. The booklets used by the researchers taught patients how to 're-trust' the bedroom and associate it with sleep. They also helped the patients develop habits that are helpful to sleep, and change those that bring about insomnia.

The results of the trial were remarkable, as the patients reported a significant improvement in sleep quality. In fact over 80 per cent of treated patients reported a reduction in the symptoms associated with insomnia, with 15 per cent reporting an improvement in 'sleep efficiency' - the percentage of time spent asleep in bed.

Until now, the main obstacle to providing CBT-I to the general population has been the lack of trained specialists who know how to deliver it. However, the researchers are changing this by delivering CBT training for insomnia (CBT-I) to NHS therapists throughout the UK. The self-help approach that they have developed promises to offer an accessible and convenient treatment that can be delivered in doctors' surgeries.