Chronic sleep problems can lead to the development of behavioural insomnia of Childhood - a sleep disorder involving problematic sleep-onset associations (i.e., parental presence), and resulting in impairments for children and family members.
Recently, Paine et al from Flinders University in Australia perform a controlled evaluation of cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) for behavioural insomnia. 42 children (M = 9.3 ± 1.9 yrs, range 7-13 yrs, 18f, 24m) were randomised to CBT (N = 21) or waitlist control (N = 21). CBT consisted of 6 sessions, and combined behavioural sleep medicine techniques (e.g., sleep restriction) with anxiety treatment techniques (e.g., cognitive restructuring). Compared to waitlist controls, children receiving CBT showed significant improvements in sleep latency, wake after sleep onset, and sleep efficiency (all p ≤ .003), but not total sleep time (p > .05). CBT was also associated with a reduction in problematic sleep associations (p ≤ .001), child-reported total and separation anxiety (both p ≤ .01), with all gains being maintained 6 months post-treatment.
This is the first controlled study to demonstrate that multi-component CBT can be effective for the sleep, insomnia, and anxiety symptoms of Behavioural Insomnia of Childhood in school-aged children.