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UNT study finds cognitive therapy helps soldiers with insomnia

UNT study finds cognitive therapy helps soldiers with insomnia

Dr.Daniel Taylor, Professor of psychology and a director of UNT's Sleep Health Research Lab. Has recently conducted an effect if any of insomnia on soldiers. Sasha Calamaco

UNT study finds cognitive therapy helps soldiers with insomnia
June 28
12:28 2017

Cognitive behavioral therapy is shown to be an effective treatment for U.S. service members, a UNT study conducted by psychology professor Daniel Taylor shows. The results were published in the Sleep Research Society journal, SLEEP, on June 1.

“[There’s] a lot of active duty folks suffering with insomnia and all the consequences that come along with it. We can treat it and we can treat it well,” Taylor said.

In another study published in SLEEP last year, Taylor determined that about 20 percent of soldiers, prior to redeployment, have insomnia. Taylor said insomnia can affect interpersonal life and is a risk factor for depression, substance abuse, and PTSD.

Participants included 100 active duty U.S. service members at Fort Hood, Texas. They were randomly assigned to three groups. One group received in-person cognitive behavioral therapy while another group received internet therapy. The last group, or the control group, did not receive any therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the behaviors and thoughts of clients. The content was the same for the internet and in-person groups.

Participants were treated once a week for six weeks. The results were measured with sleep diaries and sleep monitors.

“Both groups were better than the control condition and the in-person was twice as good as the internet intervention,” Taylor said.

The results were taken from the amount of sleep participants received before and after the study.

Sleep efficiency, or time asleep in bed, went from 73 percent to 85 percent for in-person therapy. The internet therapy saw an improvement from 73 percent to 79 percent. Lastly, the control group stayed about the same with a 0.3 increase. These results were taken from the sleep diaries.

This study was done with a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, which is affiliated with STRONG STAR consortium, a research group focused on treatment of military personnel.

Taylor said the demands placed on participants made the study difficult. They had overnight duty once a month and had to wake up early for training. Lastly, many participants had a fear of sleep. These challenges made it difficult to get participants on a regular sleeping schedule.

“They wanted to be able to sleep, but slept with one eye open,” Taylor said.

Medical and psychological associations recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, but the most common treatment is medication.

Jessee Dietch, a graduate research assistant for the study, said taking medication for a natural biological function is undesirable for most people. She also said medication has side effects and is not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy.

“[Making therapy widely available is] one of the main goals of this field right now,” Dietch said. “To get this awesome treatment that really works out to the people who need it, to train people to deliver it and to raise awareness that it exists.”

Taylor plans to use the grant to computerize training and make it available to clinicians. Beta testing for the new project will start next summer. Taylor mentioned most physicians are not trained in this therapy. He hopes a new grant can help fix this.

“We would like for it to be much more readily available for all clinicians to be trained in it,” Taylor said. “We have gotten a new grant to actually do that.”

The UNT ROTC denied to comment on the effects of insomnia on soldiers and the likelihood of soldiers getting insomnia.

Featured Image: Psychology professor and a director of UNT’s Sleep Health Research Lab, Dr. Daniel Taylor stands for a portrait in his office. Taylor recently conducted a study that found 20 percent of soldiers have insomnia before being redeployed. Sasha Calamaco

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Devin Rardin

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