Psychiatry and
Behavioral Sciences

Treatments for Insomnia

[This study is no longer recruiting subjects.]

This group has been studying non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia in older adults for over ten years. Insomnia is a major complaint associated with aging and older individuals are the most frequent users of hypnotic medications. Because of the many possible side-effects of sleeping medications in older individuals (some of which can be very serious), these investigators have dedicated their efforts to developing efficacious treatments that rely on behavioral principles rather than medications. Applicants receive a careful individual screening and in-depth sleep evaluation to ensure that their sleep problems are not secondary to a medical or psychiatric problem or the result of a major sleep disorder associated with aging, such as sleep apnea.

On successful completion of the evaluation, eligible participants are randomly assigned to one of three treatments. They have an equal chance of being assigned to any of the treatments. In all treatments, participants are instructed in the principles of sleep hygiene (or principles that promote good sleep) and assigned to a program of timed light exposure. The intensity and timing of light exposure differs among the treatments. There are certain restrictions, such as specific assigned hours for the light exposure that takes place in the participant's home. A research technician checks the arrangement of the equipment in the participant's home to ensure that it is correctly set up.

Participants meet with a sleep therapist every other week for a total of eight treatment sessions: once every other week during the three-month treatment, once for a wrap-up session at the end of treatment, and once for an additional wrap-up session at the end of the follow-up period. Each session with the therapist lasts approximately 50 minutes. During these sessions, the treatment is explained to participants, their progress followed, and any problems implementing the treatment are discussed and handled. The treatment part of the study lasts three months.


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