Public Release:  Imagery rehearsal therapy improves sleep in insomniacs

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - In a study that insomniacs may find welcoming, imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT) has been shown to subjectively improve their ability to get a good night's sleep, according to a research abstract that will be presented Wednesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, conducted by Yara Molen of Federal University of São Paulo, was focused on 24 chronic insomnia patients, each of whom was divided into one of two groups: experimental or control. The subjects participated in a two-hour meeting over a five-week period on sleep education: hygiene, beliefs and attitudes, and worries. The experimental group received instructions for practicing IRT before sleep, with an audio CD for relaxing and releasing worries, and the control group for reading before sleep, for three weeks.

The results showed that the severity of insomnia in the experimental group diminished, while their beliefs and attitudes about sleep, as well as sleep quality, improved. In the control group, the severity of insomnia also diminished, as well as general worries.

"Imagery rehearsal therapy was associated with subjective improvement in insomnia severity, sleep quality, sleep disturbance and functional beliefs and attitudes about sleep," said Molen. "Although general worries improved only in the control group, worries about sleep improved in both groups."

Insomnia is a classification of sleep disorders in which a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. These disorders may also be defined by an overall poor quality of sleep. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. About 30 percent of adults have insomnia. It is more common among elderly people and women. Some medical conditions cause insomnia, or it may be a side effect of a medication.

The amount of sleep a person gets affects his or her physical health, emotional well-being, mental abilities, productivity and performance. Recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Experts recommend that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night to maintain good health and optimum performance.

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Persons who think they might have insomnia, or another sleep disorder, are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.

The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The four-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

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