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Behav Sleep Med. 2003;1(2):115-24.

The efficacy of a Pennebaker-like writing intervention for poor sleepers.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, England.


Patients with insomnia commonly complain that they are unable to get to sleep because of unwanted thoughts and worries. One account given of this excess cognitive activity is that it results from the incomplete processing of daytime stressors and hassles. Previous research has demonstrated the benefits of writing about emotional experiences as a method to facilitate emotional processing. This pilot study tested the hypothesis that writing about worries and concerns, with an emphasis on the expression and processing of emotion, will reduce sleep onset latency among an analogue sample of poor sleepers. Forty-two poor sleepers were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 groups for 3 nights; the instructions for the "problems" writing group emphasized the expression and processing of worries and concerns, the instructions for the "hobbies" writing group emphasized distraction from worries and concerns by writing about hobbies and interests, the "no writing" group were not given a writing task. The "problems" writing group reported shorter sleep onset latency compared to the "no writing" group. The results of this pilot study highlight the potential of research exploring the utility of a Pennebaker-style writing intervention for improving sleep.

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