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'Sleep coaches' may help older people with insomnia

By Ryan Maass
'Sleep coaches' may help older people with insomnia
The new treatment reduced the total amount of awake time during sleep. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Older adults often can't access recommended cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, so researchers developed a new CBTI training program for "sleep coaches."

Insomnia is the most common sleep problem for adults, and has been linked to serious health issues such as depression, falls, stroke and memory problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI, is considered a highly effective method for treating the disorder, but many do not receive it due to a lack of therapists with CBTI training. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers say briefly trained "sleep coaches" can provide effective CBTI.

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In a study, the team used trained "sleep coaches" who are not therapists to administer weekly cognitive therapy sessions for individuals with insomnia. The coaches were supervised over the phone.

The research involved 159 participants, who were divided into one of three treatment groups. The test subjects were mostly white, male veterans between the ages of 60 to 90 years old. The first group received one-on-one sessions with specially trained coaches, while the second group received treatment in a group format. People in the third group received a general sleep education program over the course of 6 weeks instead of cognitive behavioral therapy from a sleep coach.

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After the treatment period was complete, researchers noted the first two groups outperformed the third in improving their sleep. Participants took approximately 23 minutes less to fall asleep, spent 18 minutes less awake once they fell asleep, and reported an overall improvement in the quality of their sleep.

Researchers are calling for additional studies to focus on a more diverse demographic. Since the participants were mostly white, male veterans, investigators believe the results for women and non-veterans might be different.

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