There is a substantial body of evidence that suggests that online cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) works well for many patients, and advocates note that it increases accessibility to the firstline therapy over in-person CBT-I. But most of the available data is limited to English-language speakers.

Now a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) has published a paper in The Lancet Digital Health comparing a Norwegian-language version of Sleep Healthy Using the Internet (SHUTi) with online patient education about sleep.

“Our results show that it’s possible to provide very effective and drug-free sleep treatment on a large scale. This can be done without meeting with health personnel,” says first author clinical psychologist Håvard Kallestad, in a release. Kallestad is a researcher at St. Olav’s Hospital and at NTNU’s Department of Mental Health.

Digital sleep support can help people identify the underlying causes of their sleep issues. The treatment addresses problematic sleep patterns, various stressors, and other factors that interfere with sleep. Patients keep a journal that can provide insight into their own situation.

The study included 1,721 participants, who received either digital sleep therapy or good sleep advice and digital information about sleep problems. All were Norwegian adults over the age of 18 who had difficulty sleeping.

About 58% experienced substantial improvement from the digital sleep therapy. In the control group, which received good sleep advice and digital information, only around 20% experienced a similar effect. Thirty-eight percent of participants achieved normal sleep quality after undergoing the digital sleep therapy. Only 8% of the control group had similar results.

“We also found that the participants who received digital sleep treatment were able to reduce their use of sleeping pills more than participants who only received sleep advice,” says Kallestad.

Digital sleep therapy is fully automated, meaning that no appointment with a health care provider is needed for the treatment. The study interventions were also automated. This online CBT-I program takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete.

Illustration 4291179 © Tomislav