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The effectiveness and mechanisms of psychotherapies for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in treating sleep problems is of interest. This study compared the effects of a trauma-focused and a non-trauma-focused psychotherapy on sleep, to investigate whether 1) sleep improves with psychotherapy for PTSD; 2) the degree of sleep improvement depends on whether the intervention is trauma or nontrauma-focused; 3) the memory-updating procedure in cognitive therapy for PTSD (CT-PTSD) is associated with sleep improvements; 4) initial sleep duration affects PTSD treatment outcome; and 5) which symptom changes are associated with sleep duration improvements. Self-reported sleep was assessed during a randomized controlled trial (Ehlers et al., 2014) comparing CT-PTSD (delivered weekly or intensively over 7-days) with emotion-focused supportive therapy, and a waitlist. Sleep duration was reported daily in sleep diaries during intensive CT-PTSD. CT-PTSD led to greater increases in sleep duration (55.2 min) and reductions in insomnia symptoms and nightmares than supportive therapy and the waitlist. In intensive CT-PTSD, sleep duration improved within 7 days, and sleep diaries indicated a 40-min sleep duration increase after updating trauma memories. Initial sleep duration was not related to CT-PTSD treatment outcome when initial PTSD symptom severity was controlled. The results suggest that trauma-focused psychotherapy for PTSD is more effective than nontrauma-focused therapy in improving self-reported sleep, and that CT-PTSD can still be effective in the presence of reduced sleep duration.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.brat.2017.07.001

Type

Journal article

Journal

Behav Res Ther

Publication Date

08/07/2017

Volume

97

Pages

75 - 85

Keywords

Cognitive behavioural therapy, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Randomized controlled trial, Sleep disturbances