Sleep is intrinsically linked to health – physical and mental. Which is why it may come of little surprise that a type of sleep therapy designed to help insomnia has also been found to improve a whole host of mental health issues, from anxiety to paranoia.
The New Scientist report that a University of Oxford professor of clinical psychology, Daniel Freeman, and his colleagues looked at Sleepio – a digital CBT programme, which has been scientifically proven to help people sleep better.
The researchers asked almost 2000 sleep-deprived students to use Sleepio and a control group of 1870 to use traditional tools to treat insomnia. They used questionnaires at zero, three, 10 and 22 weeks to assess sleep patterns and aspects of mental health. After the study had finished, the team discovered the Sleepio group were 50% more likely to sleep better than the control group. They also were 30% less likely to experience hallucinations and 25% less likely to experience paranoia. The Sleepio users had significantly (20%) lower levels of anxiety and depression. The CBT also led to improvements in daytime work and home functioning.
According to Reuters, Professor Freeman said:
“Sleep problems are very common in people with mental health disorders, but for too long insomnia has been trivialised as merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of psychological difficulties… “This study turns that old idea on its head, showing that insomnia may actually be a contributory cause of mental health problems.”
“A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to people’s psychological health. Helping people get better sleep could be an important first step in tackling many psychological and emotional problems.”
Other experts have suggested that improving sleep could be a promising route in to the early treatment of mental health.
The research was published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.