Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled trial

Lisa S. Talbot, Shira Maguen, Thomas J. Metzler, Martha Schmitz, Shannon E. McCaslin, Anne Richards, Michael L. Perlis, Donn A. Posner, Brandon Weiss, Leslie Ruoff, Jonathan Varbel, Thomas C. Neylan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: Examine whether cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) improves sleep in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as nightmares, nonsleep PTSD symptoms, depression symptoms, and psychosocial functioning. Design: Randomized controlled trial with two arms: CBT-I and monitor-only waitlist control. Setting: Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Participants: Forty-five adults (31 females: [mean age 37 y (22-59 y)] with PTSD meeting research diagnostic criteria for insomnia, randomly assigned to CBT-I (n = 29;22 females) or monitor-only waitlist control (n = 16; nine females). Interventions: Eight-session weekly individual CBT-I delivered by a licensed clinical psychologist or a board-certified psychiatrist. Measurements and Results: Measures included continuous monitoring of sleep with diary and actigraphy; prepolysomnography and postpolysomnography and Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS); and pre, mid, and post self-report questionnaires, with follow-up of CBT-I participants 6 mo later. CBT-I was superior to the waitlist control condition in all sleep diary outcomes and in polysomnography-measured total sleep time. Compared to waitlist participants, CBT-I participants reported improved subjective sleep (41% full remission versus 0%), disruptive nocturnal behaviors (based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index-Addendum), and overall work and interpersonal functioning. These effects were maintained at 6-mo follow-up. Both CBT-I and waitlist control participants reported reductions in PTSD symptoms and CAPS-measured nightmares. Conclusions: Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) improved sleep in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder, with durable gains at 6 mo. Overall psychosocial functioning improved following CBT-I. The initial evidence regarding CBT-I and nightmares is promising but further research is needed. Results suggest that a comprehensive approach to treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder should include behavioral sleep medicine. Clinical Trial Information: Trial Name: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Of Insomnia In Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. URL: NCT00881647. Registration Number: NCT00881647.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Insomnia
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder


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