Insomnia is commonly associated with chronic health problems. Behavioural and cognitive factors often perpetuate a vicious cycle of anxiety and sleep disturbance, leading to long-term insomnia. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence currently recommends behavioural approaches before prescribing hypnotics. Behavioural approaches aim to treat underlying causes, but are not widely available. Research usually includes patients diagnosed with insomnia rather than secondary, co-morbid sleep- related problems.
To examine the effectiveness of autogenic training (AT) as a non-drug approach to sleep-related problems associated with chronic ill health.
Prospective pre- and post-treatment cohort study.
AT centre, Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
All patients referred for AT from April 2007 to April 2008 were invited to participate. Participants received standard 8-week training, with no specific focus on sleep. Sleep questionnaires were administered at four time points, ‘Measure Your Medical Outcome Profile’ (MYMOP) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, before and after treatment. Results before and after treatment were compared. Camden and Islington Community Local Research and Ethics Committee approved the study.
The AT course was completed by 153 participants, of whom 73% were identified as having a sleep-related problem. Improvements in sleep patterns included: sleep onset latency (P = 0.049), falling asleep quicker after night waking (P < 0.001), feeling more refreshed (P < 0.001) and more energised on waking (P = 0.019). MYMOP symptom, well-being, anxiety and depression scores significantly improved (all P < 0.001).
This study suggests that AT may improve sleep patterns for patients with various health conditions and reduce anxiety and depression, both of which may result from and cause insomnia. Improvements in sleep patterns occurred despite, or possibly due to, not focusing on sleep during training. AT may provide an approach to insomnia that could be incorporated into primary care.