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CBT Reduces Insomnia Symptoms Among Young Adult Binge Drinkers

October 26, 2020

Cognitive behavioral therapy was found to reduce symptoms of insomnia among young adult binge drinkers in a pilot study recently released by the University of Missouri School of Medicine and published in the Sleep Research Society journal.

In a news release announcing the findings, researchers noted that more than half of young adults at risk for alcohol-related harm have reported symptoms of insomnia. The Missouri study was conducted to evaluate the effect of CBT on young adult binge drinkers with insomnia to see if the treatment could improve sleep and potentially impact alcohol use-related outcomes.

The pilot study included 56 individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 who had reported at least one binge-drinking episode—defined as at least four drinks in one occasion—within the prior month. Participants were assigned to either five weeks of CBT or a single session on sleep hygiene. The CBT sessions included the topics of sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, relaxation techniques, behavioral experiments, insomnia prevention and sleep diary use. Participants in both the CBT and sleep hygiene groups wore wrist devices to measure sleep and completed daily sleep and drinking surveys.

Among the study’s findings:

  • CBT participants reported a 56% reduction in insomnia severity. Sleep hygiene session participants reported a 32% reduction.
  • CBT participants saw a moderate improvement in measured sleep efficiency compared to sleep hygiene session participants.
  • Both groups reduced alcohol intake and alcohol-related consequences. CBT participants also had greater improves related to insomnia.

“The potential for insomnia treatment to influence alcohol-related consequences has significant implications for the prevention and treatment of alcohol use among young adults,” Mary Beth Miller, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the MU School of Medicine, said in a news release. “Given the stigma associated with mental health issues and addiction, it’s crucial to identify other forms of treatment that either influence alcohol outcomes or open the door to alcohol-related treatment.”

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