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Sleep Med. 2011 Sep;12(8):735-47. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2011.03.016. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

No pain, no gain: an exploratory within-subjects mixed-methods evaluation of the patient experience of sleep restriction therapy (SRT) for insomnia.

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University of Glasgow Sleep Centre, Sackler Institute of Psychobiological Research and Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.



To explore the patient experience of Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) for insomnia, with particular focus on elucidating possible side-effects, challenges to adherence and implementation and perceptions of benefit/impact.


To fully investigate the patient experience of sleep restriction therapy for insomnia we designed a within-subjects mixed-method study, employing sleep and daytime functioning questionnaires, assessments of sleep-restriction-related side-effects, prospective qualitative audio-diaries and post-treatment semi-structured interviews. University of Glasgow Sleep Centre. Eighteen patients with Primary Insomnia (mean age=42; range 18-64). Patients took part in a 4-week brief sleep restriction intervention, involving two group sessions and two subsequent follow-up phone calls in the home environment.


Sleep diaries and global measures of insomnia severity and sleep quality, as expected, demonstrated robust improvements at both post-treatment and 3-month follow-up (all large effect sizes). Daytime functioning/health-related quality of life variables similarly evidenced strong treatment effects (moderate to large effect sizes). Reported side-effects were common, with ≥50% of patients reporting impairment in 8 out of 12 listed symptoms as a consequence of initiating treatment. The four most common side-effects were 'fatigue/exhaustion' (100%), 'extreme sleepiness' (94%), 'reduced motivation/energy' (89%) and 'headache/migraine' (72%) [Mean number of symptoms per patient=7.2 (2.4); range 3-11]. Intriguingly, both side-effect frequency and ratings of side-effect interference were associated with baseline to post-treatment improvements in sleep quality. Qualitative real-time audio-diaries during week 1 of treatment and post-treatment interviews provided rich accounts of side-effects associated with acute SRT implementation; general challenges surrounding treatment implementation and adherence/non-adherence; and modifications to sleep parameters, daytime functioning and perceptions of sleep/sleep period.


This work has important implications for the delivery of SRT, particularly concerning awareness of possible 'adverse events' and likely implementation/adherence challenges. Findings also pave the way for testable hypotheses concerning possible mechanisms of action involved in sleep restriction treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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