Digital cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia reduces insomnia in nurses suffering from shift work disorder: A randomised-controlled pilot trial

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  • Johanna Ell
  • Hanna A. Brückner
  • Anna F. Johann
  • Lisa Steinmetz
  • Lara J. Güth
  • Bernd Feige
  • Heli Järnefelt
  • Annie Vallières
  • Lukas Frase
  • Katharina Domschke
  • Dieter Riemann
  • Dirk Lehr
  • Kai Spiegelhalder

Insomnia is a primary symptom of shift work disorder, yet it remains undertreated. This randomised-controlled pilot trial examined the efficacy of a digital, guided cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia adapted to shift work (SleepCare) in nurses with shift work disorder. The hypothesis was that SleepCare reduces insomnia severity compared with a waitlist control condition. A total of 46 unmedicated nurses suffering from shift work disorder with insomnia (age: 39.7 ± 12.1 years; 80.4% female) were randomised to the SleepCare group or the waitlist control group. The primary outcome measure was the Insomnia Severity Index. Other questionnaires on sleep, mental health and occupational functioning, sleep diary data and actigraphy data were analysed as secondary outcomes. Assessments were conducted before (T0), after the intervention/waitlist period (T1), and 6 months after treatment completion (T2). The SleepCare group showed a significant reduction in insomnia severity from T0 to T1 compared with the control condition (β = −4.73, SE = 1.12, p < 0.001). Significant improvements were observed in sleepiness, dysfunctional beliefs about sleep, pre-sleep arousal, sleep effort, self-reported sleep efficiency and sleep onset latency. No significant effect was found in actigraphy data. Depressive and anxiety symptoms, cognitive irritation and work ability improved significantly. Overall, satisfaction and engagement with the intervention was high. SleepCare improved insomnia severity, sleep, mental health and occupational functioning. This is the first randomised-controlled trial investigating the efficacy of digital cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in a population suffering from shift work disorder with insomnia. Future research should further explore these effects with larger sample sizes and active control conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14193
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Number of pages14
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23.02.2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Sleep Research published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Sleep Research Society.

    Research areas

  • cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, digital intervention, nurses, shift work disorder
  • Psychology