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Community CBT workshops prove effective for treating insomnia symptoms

Day-long community Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workshops represent an effective and accessible treatment option for adults suffering from insomnia symptoms, according to researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London. 

Individual CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) is known to be effective, with 70-80% of treated participants experiencing long-lasting symptom reduction. Compared to pharmacological treatments, CBT-I results in longer-term benefits, has no physical side-effects and is preferred by patients. Furthermore, NICE Guidelines for Insomnia recommend non-medical treatments before medication.

Dr June Brown, lead investigator of the study at the IoP at King's, says: ‘Insomnia is the most common psychiatric symptom, about 1 in 3 experience symptoms at some time in their lives, and the prevalence is increasing. However, we have found that few people actually seek professional help, often because people tend to trivialise sleep problems and aren’t aware of effective treatment options.'

Dr Brown adds: ‘Few services offer individual CBT-I so we wanted to test the effectiveness of more accessible treatments. We set up day-long CBT-I workshops for up to 30 people to which members of the public could self-refer. We found the workshops were effective at treating insomnia symptoms and accessible as over half of those who attended had not sought help before’. 

Rather than taking place in mental health settings, the workshops were held in community centres, libraries or leisure centres across South West London. The day-long workshops were effective in reducing the symptoms of insomnia, with a large effect on the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), even after follow up at 3 months. 91% reported that the workshops had helped them deal more effectively with their problems. The workshops were also considered accessible, as over 50% had not previously sought help from their GPs. 

Further research at the IoP at King's will be examining the cost effectiveness of group CBT-I workshops. 

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) for Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The authors thanked Anna Smith, Shirley Convetry and Ani Zavody for running the workshops, and Ritika Sukthankar and Shriti Rakundalia for their assistance with the project. 

For full paper: Swift, N. et al ‘The effectiveness of community day-long CBT-I workshops for participants with insomnia symptoms: a randomised controlled trial’, Journal of Sleep Research (2011) doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2011.00940.x

For more information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, email: or tel: 0207 848 5377
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