Depression prevention via digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: a randomized controlled trial

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STUDY OBJECTIVES: Insomnia is a common precursor to depression; yet, the potential for insomnia treatment to prevent depression has not been demonstrated. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) effectively reduces concurrent symptoms of insomnia and depression and can be delivered digitally (dCBT-I); however, it remains unclear whether treating insomnia leads to sustained reduction and prevention of depression. This randomized controlled trial examined the efficacy of dCBT-I in reducing and preventing depression over a 1-year follow-up period.

METHODS: Patients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) insomnia disorder were randomly assigned to receive dCBT-I or an attentional control. The follow-up sample included 358 patients in the dCBT-I condition and 300 patients in the online sleep education condition. The primary outcome measure was relative rate ratios for depression at 1-year follow-up. Insomnia responses to treatment were also tested as predictors of incident depression at the 1-year follow-up.

RESULTS: At 1-year follow-up, depression severity continued to be significantly lower in the dCBT-I condition relative to control. In addition, the number of individuals who reported no depression at 1-year follow-up was 51% higher in the dCBT-I condition relative to control. In those with minimal to no depression at baseline, the incident rate of moderate-to-severe depression at 1-year follow-up was reduced by half in the dCBT-I condition relative to the control condition.

CONCLUSION: dCBT-I showed robust effects as an intervention that prevents depression. Future research should examine dose-response requirements and further characterize mechanisms of action of dCBT-I for depression prevention.

CLINICAL TRIAL: Sleep to Prevent Evolving Affective Disorders; NCT02988375.

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ePub ahead of print