A 70-year-old Californian who'd suffered from longtime insomnia had tapped into almost every remedy to no avail—until she tried out a new online therapy that has her "sleeping much better now," she tells the New York Times. The automated program, called SHUTi, is an online adaptation of cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help address the problem of a lack of clinicians trained to carry out such therapy. The study, carried out by University of Virginia scientists and reported on in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, focused on 303 people ages 21 to 65 with chronic insomnia, most of whom had already gone the medication or supplement route. Half received a "digital placebo," which included getting educational materials and tips on how to deal with sleep issues.
The others received six weeks of SHUTi, which uses sleep restriction (trying to stay within the same sleep "window" every night) and stimulus control (which focuses on getting rid of the association between the bed and non-sleep activities). The program also helps patients dump destructive beliefs about sleep, like thinking one needs meds to doze off, and requires patients to keep a daily log so sessions can be catered to each subject. A year later, 57% of SHUTi subjects were enjoying normal sleep, while only 27% of the digital placebo group were. The Times notes some scientists in the study, as well as UVa, have a financial stake in the product, though it says none of those people had access to the data. The study concludes that SHUTi could prove to be "a less expensive, scalable treatment option that could reach previously unimaginable numbers of people," per a release. (Women may just need to adjust their bedtimes.)