Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for good health, which is why this new research on treating insomnia is well worth considering.
The recent heatwave was enough to cause many a sleepless night across the UK. But, worryingly, an Aviva study in 2017 found that insomnia is a regular thing for nearly 16 million adults. This means that they are getting less than five hours of sleep per night, thanks to finding it hard to drop off and waking up throughout the night. According to new proposed government guidelines, the healthiest amount of sleep is nine hours a night. It reports that “failure to sleep between seven and nine hours a night is associated with physical and mental health problems, including an increased risk of obesity, strokes, heart attacks, depression and anxiety”.
But what if you are one of the many people who suffer with insomnia? Well, new research suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy could be used as a treatment for it.
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. The authors of the study say that although CBT is effective, it is not being used widely enough, with doctors having limited knowledge about it and patients lacking access. A course of therapy would involve a programme of changes to the way an individual approaches and thinks about sleep. This includes staying away from the bed when awake, challenging attitudes about sleep loss and limiting the number of hours spent in bed.
“There is a very effective treatment that doesn’t involve medication that should be available through your primary care service. If it’s not, it should be,” said co-author Dr Judith Davidson.
The research was carried out by experts at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, and has been published in the British Journal of General Practice. The researchers looked at results from four randomised control trials and found that participants fell asleep on average between nine and 30 minutes sooner after completing a course of CBT for insomnia. They also experienced a reduction of 22 to 36 minutes in the amount of time spent awake after going to sleep.
According to The Guardian, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, supports the study and welcomes the idea of rolling out CBT trials in surgeries in the UK.
“CBT tailored to insomnia has been a first-line treatment option for some time, and we know many patients have found it beneficial, so it is really positive that its effectiveness has been shown by this research,” she said.
However, she also added that access to CBT through the NHS could be extremely difficult and is very variable across the country. But if you suffer with insomnia, it’s definitely something to bring up with your GP.