Does Online Sleep Therapy Work?

Does online sleep therapy work? You can bet your Yves Delorme sheets it does.

What’s more, it’s cheaper, more private, more convenient, and available when you have the time — not when a therapist 10 miles away can give you an appointment.

In a study at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, researchers recruited 81 people online to participate in a five-week program of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT — which involves learning about what keeps you from sleeping and manipulating your behavior to counteract it in a structured way — is arguably the most effective approach to insomnia. It’s as effective as a sleeping pill in the short term and substantially more effective in the long term.

But there are few certified CBT psychologists outside of large cities, and even the four to eight sessions it usually takes to overcome sleep issues doesn’t come cheap.

Hence, the interest in whether or not an online CBT would work.

Of those who volunteered online for the study, 57 percent were under age 50, 32 percent were between the ages of 50 and 59, and 9 percent were over age 60 — a clear indication that it’s not just twenty somethings who are comfortable navigating the online environment, but women of all ages. Volunteers who had sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, and pain were excluded from the study.

Each study participant maintained a sleep diary two weeks prior to the five-week program, during the program, and for two weeks after its conclusion. For five weeks they received information about what helps sleep and suggestions for specific behaviors, such as how much time they should stay in bed based upon their particular sleep diary.

The result?

Modest but important. By the end of the program, those who had participated went to sleep 29 percent faster, reduced their middle-of-the-night waking by 38 percent, reduced their early-morning awakening by 35 percent, added half an hour to their total sleep time, and increased the quality of their sleep by nearly one-third.

“I believe that Internet CBT can be effective for anyone,” says sleep researcher Celyne H. Bastien, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the Universit&ecute; of Laval in Quebec, who has studied different ways of presenting CBT to those with insomnia. So is CBT via phone. So is CBT in group therapy. So is CBT in individual therapy. Since CBT produces sleep deprivation at first, those who experience insomnia along with another medical condition, such as depression, should use an online program only with their doctor’s supervision.

For an online CBT program for insomnia that was developed at the Harvard Medical School, go to It will cost you $19.95 — about the same as a week’s supply of sleeping pills.

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