Using a program to combat teen insomnia


It is crucial that teenagers get adequate sleep, but unfortunately some may battle insomnia. Could a brief intervention help improve outcomes?

Multiple guidelines recommend that teenagers get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night. Worries about a lack of adequate sleep have driven the call to push the school start time for middle school and high school later than the common 7:00 to 7:30 am now used. Further challenging the need for quality sleep in this age group is research showing how electronic devices can have a negative impact on teenagers’ sleep hygiene. However, insomnia can also be a problem in this age group and an examination in Pediatrics looks into whether a prevention program was effective in reducing insomnia in those at risk.1

The investigators ran a randomized controlled trial that compared a nonactive control group with a weekly insomnia prevention program. Each participant was assessed at the study’s baseline as well as 6 and 12 months following the intervention. Those assessing the participants had been blinded to the randomization.

There were 242 teenagers who had a family history of insomnia and subthreshold insomnia symptoms included in the study. They were randomly assigned into the control group (n = 121; mean age = 15.0 ± 1.7; female: 62.0%) and intervention group (n = 121; mean age = 14.7 ± 1.8; female: 51.2%). When compared to the control group, a lower incidence rate of both acute and chronic insomnia disorder was found in the intervention group (5.8% vs 20.7%; P = .002; number needed to treat = 6.7; hazard ratio = 0.29; 95% CI: 0.12–0.66; P = .003) over the course of the 12 month follow-up. Additionally, the teenagers in the intervention group had reduced vulnerability to stress-related insomnia (P = .03) as well as decreased insomnia symptoms (P = .03) both after the intervention and over the course of the 12 month follow-up. Postintervention, the researchers also noted better sleep hygiene practices (P = .02), decreased daytime sleepiness (P = .04), and increased total sleep time (P = .05). Additionally, at the 12 month follow-up, the group that had undergone the invention recounted fewer depressive symptoms than the control group (P = .02).

The investigators concluded that a brief cognitive behavioral program was effective in preventing the onset of insomnia. Given the sleep needs of adolescents, using such programs could be an effective way of getting affected teenagers back to healthier sleep schedules.


1. Chan N, Li S, Zhang J, et al. A prevention program for insomnia in at-risk adolescents: a randomized controlled study. Pediatrics. February 24, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-006833

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