Online Sleep Therapy May Reduce Depression

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Oct 18, 2017

Online Sleep Therapy May Reduce Depression

A remarkable breakthrough in digital therapy research

A new study undertaken at the University of Oxford suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used to help reduce depression, anxiety and paranoia. Daniel Freeman and colleagues tested Sleepio, a digital CBT therapy programme intended to help people with insomnia regain healthy sleep patterns, to see if it impacted other problems.

More than 3,700 students with difficulty sleeping were split into two groups; half using Sleepio, half following standard insomnia advice. Both groups completed questionnaires before, during, and after the experiment to assess their sleep patterns.

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Treatment consisted of six 20-minute sessions presented by a sleep expert. Participants were encouraged to create a pro-sleep environment, as well as to set aside reflective time before bed.

Results showed those using the Sleepio programme slept an average of 50% better than the control group, with 30% seeing a reduction in hallucinations, 25% in paranoia, and 20% reporting lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Head of the Oxford Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, Professor Russell Foster, spoke of the excitement caused by the study, saying it “suggests a new therapeutic target for the treatment of psychosis and other mental illnesses”.

However, Freeman’s recent study experienced a drop out rate of ~50%. Just 18% of participants in the Sleepio group accessed all six CBT sessions.

That being said, the first results remain promising. With more students than ever reportedly suffering from poor mental health, CBT and insomnia expert Nicole Tang highlighted the importance of the study, saying: “Investment in proving sleep-related interventions is a logical and possibly cost-effective way to tackle this growing problem.”

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