Dual therapy aims for a good night’s sleep

leonlackA Flinders University trial of a non-drug treatment for middle-aged to elderly people who suffer from disturbed sleep patterns is showing promising results, and is now seeking more volunteers.

The study, run by the Sleep Research Unit in the School of Psychology, is assessing the effectiveness of combining two approaches in resolving sleep problems.

Professor Leon Lack said one part of the non-drug therapy employs a standard cognitive behaviour approach already proven to be effective. It relies on educating people about their sleep rhythms and teaches techniques to improve sleep and to alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with sleeplessness.

This therapy is combined with a technique that uses late evening exposure to bright light as way of resetting the body’s internal sleep clock.

“Our previous research has shown that people who wake during the night have body clocks that are timed too early, so our strategy is to delay that body clock timing so that they can sleep longer and later,” Professor Lack said.

The bright light therapy employs newly developed portable light devices, which comprise small coloured-light sources mounted on spectacles.

“The therapy lasts for three weeks, making it much shorter than most sleep improvement programs,” Professor Lack said.

“So far, the results show the treatments to be significantly beneficial.”

Professor Lack’s team is seeking participants who are 55 years or older with interrupted sleep and early waking problems and who live in the Adelaide metropolitan region.

People interested in being involved in the treatment program research should contact the Sleep Research Unit at Flinders University on 8201 2377, or email: sleep@flinders.edu.au

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