Cognitive therapy helps insomnia & pain

September 14, 2009


Sufferers from osteoarthritis often experience sleeplessness and around 60 percent report feeling pain at night due to their condition. Now some new research suggests cognitive behavioural therapy could be an effective way of dealing with the problem.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has reported on a study done at the University of Washington, USA that specifically tested behavioural therapy on patients with arthritis. The majority of the test subjects were female, so it can’t be deemed conclusive for men as well, but the older adults in the study initially reported sleeping 21 minutes longer per night on average and 27 minutes longer a year after treatment.

That might not sound like much, but for anyone who has known the exhaustion of sleep deprivation then any increase is a bonus. Further, the patients also experienced a significant reduction in arthritis pain compared to those in a control group.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a well established method for helping facilitate behavioural change and attitude. For the study the subjects took part in for two months in weekly two-hour group classes led by an experienced clinical psychologist. They were put on a strict schedule of bedtimes and waking times, beginning with the amount of time they were actually sleeping told to lie in bed awake no longer than 15 minutes and to engage in no activities in bed other than sleep and sex. If they began to spend more of their time in bed asleep, their hours of sleep were increased by a maximum of one-half hour each week.

Cognitive restructuring techniques helped participants change unrealistic beliefs and irrational fears regarding sleep or lack of it. They also received relaxation training and instruction about other factors that might affect their sleep, such as getting enough sunlight and exercise and avoiding alcohol and caffeine.

They kept both sleep and pain logs and for the majority in the study there was a definite, and continued, improvement in both these areas. since most of the participants were women.


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