Is a lack of sleep getting you down? If you are an older adult, insomnia is a frequent complaint as almost half of adults 60 and older report sleeping problems that often result in daytime symptoms of anxiety and depression. Help may be on the way as researchers find brief behavioral treatment (BBTI) is a promising intervention to remedy the nighttime dilemma.

The study, conducted by Anne Germain, PhD, and colleagues of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, focused on 17 older adults who were randomly assigned to receive BBTI, and 18 selected to receive an information-only control (IC) condition. All participants completed clinician-administered and self-report measures of sleep quality, as well as a sleep diary.

Interventions were delivered in a single individual session with a booster session administered two weeks later.

Postintervention assessments were completed after four weeks.

The results showed significant improvements in sleep measures and in daytime symptoms of anxiety and depression in 71 percent of those individuals who received BBTI, compared to 39 percent favorable response among IC participants. Furthermore, 53 percent of BBTI participants met criteria for remission, while 17 percent of those in the IC group met the same criteria.

“These preliminary findings are consistent with previous studies that have shown that brief behavioral insomnia interventions can be efficacious and remain efficacious in older adults who present with the typical psychiatric and medical comorbidities associated with aging,” the authors wrote.

Sleep needs change over a person’s lifetime. However, older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults — seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Not sleeping well can lead to a number of problems. Older adults who have poor nighttime sleep are more likely to have a depressed mood, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Poor sleep is also associated with a poorer quality of life.

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint at any age.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine