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Insomnia & Sleep

Library of Research Articles on Veterans and CIH Therapies

January 2021 Edition

Insomnia & Sleep

Beck D, Cosco Holt L, Burkard J, Andrews T, Liu L, Heppner P, Bormann JE. Efficacy of the Mantram Repetition Program for Insomnia in Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Naturalistic Study.  ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2017 Apr/Jun;40(2):E1-E12. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000144.

Statistics show that more than 80% of Veterans mention posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related symptoms when seeking treatment. Sleep disturbances and nightmares are among the top 3 presenting problems. Current PTSD trauma-focused therapies generally do not improve sleep disturbances. The mantram repetition program (MRP), a mind-body-spiritual intervention, teaches a portable set of cognitive-spiritual skills for symptom management. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the MRP on insomnia in Veterans with PTSD in a naturalistic, clinical setting. Results show that participation in the MRP significantly reduced insomnia, as well as decreased self-reported and clinician-assessed PTSD symptom burden.

Garner BK, Hopkinson SG, Ketz AK, Landis CA, Trego LL. Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Pain and Insomnia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Med Acupunct. 2018 Oct 1;30(5):262-272. doi: 10.1089/acu.2018.1294. Epub 2018 Oct 15. PubMed PMID: 30377462; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6205765.


In the United States, ∼1.6 million adults use complementary and alternative or integrative medicine for treating pain and insomnia. However, very few studies have tested the use of auricular acupuncture using a standard protocol for chronic pain and insomnia. The aims of this research were to assess the feasibility and credibility of auricular acupuncture, and to evaluate the effects of auricular acupuncture on pain severity and interference scores, and on insomnia severity over an 8-day study period.

Materials and Methods

Forty-five participants were randomized to either an auricular acupuncture group (AAG) or a usual care group (CG) on study day 4. A standard auricular acupuncture protocol was administered, with penetrating semipermanent acupuncture needles in place for up to 4 days. The main outcome measures were feasibility of conducting the study, credibility of auricular acupuncture as a treatment modality, Brief Pain Inventory pain severity and interference scores, and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores.


There was high interest in the study and the retention was 96%. Credibility of auricular acupuncture as a treatment was high in both groups. The use of the standard auricular acupuncture protocol in the AAG led to significant within- and between-group reduced pain severity and interference scores, compared to the CG. Both groups showed within-group decreased ISI scores. However, the AAG showed significant between-group reduced ISI severity scores compared to the CG.


With the heightened focus on the opioid crisis in the United States, this easy-to-administer protocol may be an option for treating military beneficiaries who have chronic pain and insomnia

Huang W, Johnson TM, Kutner NG, Halpin SN, Weiss P, Griffiths PC, Bliwise DL. Acupuncture for Treatment of Persistent Disturbed Sleep: A Randomized Clinical Trial in VeteransWith Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018 Dec


To evaluate real, as compared with sham, acupuncture in improving persistent sleep disturbance in veterans with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


This sham-controlled randomized clinical trial at a US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (2010-2015) included 60 veterans aged 24-55 years (mean of 40 years) with history of mTBI of at least 3 months and refractory sleep disturbance. Most of these participants (66.7%) carried a concurrent DSM-IV clinical diagnosis of PTSD. For the present study, they were randomized into 2 groups and stratified by PTSD status using the PTSD Checklist-Military Version. Each participant received up to 10 treatment sessions. The primary outcome measure was change in baseline-adjusted global Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score following intervention. Secondary outcomes were wrist-actigraphy-assessed objective sleep measurements. Comorbid PTSD was analyzed as a covariate.


Mean (SD) preintervention global PSQI score was 14.3 (3.2). Those receiving real acupuncture had a global PSQI score improvement of 4.4 points (relative to 2.4 points in sham, P = .04) and actigraphically measured sleep efficiency (absolute) improvement of 2.7% (relative to a decrement of 5.3% in sham, P = .0016). Effective blinding for active treatment was maintained in the study. PTSD participants presented with more clinically significant sleep difficulties at baseline; acupuncture was effective for both those with and without PTSD.


Real acupuncture, compared with a sham needling procedure, resulted in a significant improvement in sleep measures for veterans with mTBI and disturbed sleep, even in the presence of PTSD. These results indicate that an alternative-medicine treatment modality like acupuncture can provide clinically significant relief for a particularly recalcitrant problem affecting large segments of the veteran population.

King HC, Spence DL, Hickey AH, Sargent P, Elesh R, Connelly CD. Auricular acupuncture for sleep disturbance in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder: a feasibility study. Mil Med. 2015 May;180(5):582-90. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00451. PMID: 25939115.

The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility and acceptability of an auricular acupuncture (AA) insomnia regimen among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbance. Secondarily, this study examined the effect of an AA insomnia regimen on objective sleep times by wrist actigraphy, subjective sleep times by sleep diary, and sleep quality ratings utilizing the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index. Veterans (n = 30) were randomized to receive a 3-week AA insomnia regimen. Veterans receiving the AA insomnia regimen reported it as a more acceptable treatment for sleep disturbance than subjects in the control group (AA group median = 5 vs. control group median = 3, p = 0.004). Significant differences between groups were found on the sleep quality and daytime dysfunction components of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (p = 0.003, p = 0.004). No other significant differences between groups were found for objective and subjective sleep measures. These results suggest that an AA insomnia regimen may improve sleep quality and daytime dysfunction among veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Future, large-scale, prospective clinical trials are needed to examine AA effects on sleep.

Nakamura Y, Lipschitz DL, Donaldson GW, Kida Y, Williams SL, Landward R, Glover DW, West G, Tuteja AK. Investigating Clinical Benefits of a Novel Sleep-Focused Mind-Body Program on Gulf War Illness Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Psychosom Med. 2017


Mind-Body Bridging (MBB) has been shown to be effective for improving disturbed sleep. In this prospective randomized controlled trial, we evaluated the efficacy of sleep-focused MBB compared with sleep education control (SED) for improving sleep in previously deployed Gulf War veterans.


US military service members with sleep and physical health complaints who were deployed in 1990-1991 were randomized to receive three weekly sessions of either MBB (n = 33) or SED (n = 27) between 2012 and 2015. The primary outcome of Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale was completed at baseline, weekly during treatment, postintervention, and 3-month follow-up. Secondary outcome measures for posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, fatigue, quality of life, symptom severity, and mindfulness were completed at baseline, postintervention and 3-month follow-up. Salivary samples were collected at five time points per day at each visit for cortisol and α-amylase assessment. Clinician-administered assessments of sleep and co-occurring conditions were conducted at baseline and postintervention.


MBB was significantly more efficacious than SED in reducing disturbed sleep at follow-up (F(1,180.54) = 4.04, p = .046). In addition, self-reported posttraumatic stress disorder (F(1,56.42) = 4.50, p = .038) for the treatment effect, depression (F(1,93.70) = 4.44, p = .038), and fatigue symptoms (F(1,68.58) = 3.90, p = .050) at follow-up improved in MBB compared with those in SED. Consistently higher percentages of veterans in MBB reported improvements of sleep, pain, and composite sleep/general co-occurring symptoms at the postclinical evaluation, as compared with veterans in SED. Finally, the mean waking level of salivary α-amylase in the MBB declined to a greater extent than that in the SED, at follow-up (F(1,88.99) = 3.78, p = .055), whereas no effects were found on cortisol.


Sleep-focused MBB can improve sleep and possibly also co-occurring symptoms in Gulf War veterans.

Nakamura Y, Lipschitz DL, Landward R, Kuhn R, West G. Two sessions of sleep-focused mind-body bridging improve self-reported symptoms of sleep and PTSD in veterans: A pilot randomized controlled trial. J Psychosom Res. 2011 Apr;70(4):335-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2010.09.007. 


Sleep disturbance is highly prevalent among veterans. As an alternative to sleep medications with their undesirable side effects, nonpharmacological mind-body interventions may be beneficial for sleep management in primary care. The aim of this pilot study was to investigate whether a novel mind-body intervention, mind-body bridging (MBB), focusing on sleep, could improve self-reported sleep disturbance and comorbid symptoms in veterans.


This pilot study was a randomized controlled trial at the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System in which 63 veterans with self-reported sleep disturbance received MBB or an active sleep education control. Both interventions were conducted in two sessions, once per week. Patient-reported outcomes included the following: primary-Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) Sleep Survey, MOS Short Form-36V; secondary-Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression, PTSD Check List-Military, Five-Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire.


At both Week 1 (1 week after the first session) and post-intervention assessments, while sleep disturbance decreased in both groups, MBB performed significantly better than did the control group. Furthermore, self-reported PTSD symptoms improved in MBB, while they remained unchanged in the control. Overall mindfulness increased in MBB, while it remained unchanged in the control.


This study provides preliminary evidence that a brief sleep-focused MBB could be a promising intervention for sleep and potentially other comorbid symptoms (e.g., PTSD). MBB could help patients develop awareness skills to deal with sleep-related symptoms. Integration of MBB into primary care settings may enhance care of patients with sleep disturbance and co-morbid symptoms.

Prisco MK, Jecmen MC, Bloeser KJ et al.  Group auricular acupuncture for PTSD-related insomnia in veterans: a randomized trial. 17 Dec 2013


This study examined how group auricular acupuncture may influence sleep quality, sleep patterns, and hypnotic medication use associated with PTSD-related insomnia in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.


This study was a randomized controlled trial with sham acupuncture and wait-list controls.

Setting: This study took place at the Washington, DC, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Medical Center.

Subjects: Thirty-five subjects were randomized to participate in the study, but only 25 subjects completed the study.

Interventions: Subjects were randomized to one of three groups: (1) true group auricular acupuncture; (2) sham auricular acupuncture; or (3) wait-list control.

Outcome Measures: The primary outcome measure was perceived sleep quality (as measured by Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) questionnaires and Morin Sleep Diaries [MSDs]). Secondary outcome measures were total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency, sleep latency, naps (as measured by MSD and wrist actigraphs [WAs]), hypnotic medication use, veteran satisfaction, and attrition rates.


Subjects in the true auricular acupuncture group had a statistically significant improvement (p=0.0165) in sleep quality as measured by the ISI at time (t)=1 month. This group had a trend toward lower MSD TST at t=2 months (p=0.078), lower WA TST at t=1 month (p=0.0893), and toward higher MSD nap times than the other two groups post-treatment (p=0.0666). No statistically significant association between group assignment and hypnotic medication use and satisfaction scores were noted.


Acupuncturists should consider incorporating sleep hygiene education into their clinical practices and/or collaborate with insomnia health care professionals when working with individuals with insomnia. This study also supports the finding that perceived sleep quality and objective WA measurements are not significantly correlated.

Reilly ED, Robinson SA, Petrakis BA, Kuhn E, Pigeon WR, Wiener RS, McInnes DK, Quigley KS. Mobile App Use for Insomnia Self-Management: Pilot Findings on Sleep Outcomes in Veterans. Interact J Med Res. 2019 Jul 24;8(3):e12408. 


Sleep disturbance is a major health concern among US veterans who have served since 2001 in a combat theater in Iraq or Afghanistan. We report subjective and objective sleep results from a pilot trial assessing self-management-guided use of a mobile app (CBT-i Coach, which is based on cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) as an intervention for insomnia in military veterans.


The primary aim of this study was to evaluate changes in subjective and objective sleep outcomes from pre to postintervention.


Subjective outcomes included the Insomnia Severity Index, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Inventory, and sleep-related functional status. A wearable sleep monitor (WatchPAT) measured objective sleep outcomes, including sleep efficiency, percent rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep, sleep time, and sleep apnea. A total of 38 participants were enrolled in the study, with 18 participants being withdrawn per the protocol because of moderate or severe sleep apnea and 9 others who dropped out or withdrew. Thus, 11 participants completed the full 6-week CBT-i Coach self-management intervention (i.e., completers).


Completer results indicated significant changes in subjective sleep measures, including reduced reports of insomnia (Z=-2.68, P=.007) from pre (mean 16.63, SD 5.55) to postintervention (mean 12.82, SD 3.74), improved sleep quality (Z=-2.37, P=.02) from pre (mean 12.82, SD 4.60) to postintervention (mean 10.73, SD 3.32), and sleep-related functioning (Z=2.675, P=.007) from pre (mean 13.86, SD 3.69) to postintervention (mean 15.379, SD 2.94). Among the objective measures, unexpectedly, objective sleep time significantly decreased from pre to postintervention (χ22=7.8, P=.02). There were no significant changes in percent REM sleep or sleep efficiency.


These findings suggest that the CBT-i Coach app can improve subjective sleep and that incorporating objective sleep measures into future, larger clinical trials or clinical practice may yield important information, particularly by detecting previously undetected sleep apnea.

Zalta AK, Pinkerton LM, Valdespino-Hayden Z, Smith DL, Burgess HJ, Held P, Boley RA, Karnik NS, Pollack MH. Examining Insomnia During Intensive Treatment for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Does it Improve and Does it Predict Treatment Outcomes? J Trauma Stress. 2020 Mar 26. doi: 10.1002/jts.22505. [Epub ahead of print]

Previous research has demonstrated that sleep disturbances show little improvement with evidence-based psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, sleep improvements are associated with PTSD treatment outcomes. The goal of the current study was to evaluate changes in self-reported insomnia symptoms and the association between insomnia symptoms and treatment outcome during a 3-week intensive treatment program (ITP) for veterans with PTSD that integrated cognitive processing therapy (CPT), mindfulness, yoga, and other ancillary services. As part of standard clinical procedures, veterans (N = 165) completed self-report assessments of insomnia symptoms at pre- and posttreatment as well as self-report assessments of PTSD and depression symptoms approximately every other day during treatment. Most veterans reported at least moderate difficulties with insomnia at both pretreatment (83.0%-95.1%) and posttreatment (69.1-71.3%). Statistically significant reductions in self-reported insomnia severity occurred from pretreatment to posttreatment; however, the effect size was small, d = 0.33. Longitudinal mixed-effects models showed a significant interactive effect of Changes in Insomnia × Time in predicting PTSD and depression symptoms, indicating that patients with more improvements in insomnia had more positive treatment outcomes. These findings suggest that many veterans continued to struggle with sleep disruption after a 3-week ITP, and successful efforts to improve sleep could lead to better PTSD treatment outcomes. Further research is needed to establish how adjunctive sleep interventions can be used to maximize both sleep and PTSD outcomes.