The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a daily, 8-week treatment for
insomnia using yoga, relaxation exercises or sleep hygiene.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by a chronic difficulty in initiating and
maintaining sleep which has a relatively high prevalence and a significant socioeconomic
cost. There is good evidence that cognitive and/or physiological arousal, associated with
sustained sympathetic activation, is one of the underlying causes of insomnia. Relaxation
treatments such as progressive relaxation and meditation which address the cognitive and
somatic arousal associated with insomnia have been found to be effective. Yoga is a
comprehensive discipline which includes physical exercises, postures, breathing techniques,
and meditation, for the purpose of improving health and well being. Research studies have
documented the effectiveness of yoga in reducing sympathetic activation and cognitive and
somatic arousal and in the treatment of specific medical disorders. Although it has been
used and recommended for the treatment of insomnia, its effectiveness has not been evaluated
in a randomized, controlled study. The aim of this proposal is to evaluate the effectiveness
of yoga, relaxation exercises or sleep hygiene in the treatment of chronic
psychophysiological insomnia. A subjective measure of sleep onset latency will be derived
from daily sleep diaries, and an objective measure will be drawn from polysomnographic
recordings. Sleep onset latency will be evaluated before and after a two month treatment
period in a total of 48 young men and women who have been carefully screened for psychiatric
and medical disorders. Subjects will be assigned to a yoga, relaxation exercise, or sleep
hygiene treatment group. We anticipate that yoga practice will prove to be an effective
treatment for insomnia which will yield significant improvements in sleep onset latency. We
also anticipate that these improvements will be maintained at long-term follow up
- A primary complaint of sleep-onset insomnia for at least 6 months.
- Reside in the metropolitan Boston area
- No current other nonpharmacological treatment for insomnia.
- Ability or willingness to discontinue use of hypnotic medications.
- No rotating or night shift work, or transcontinental travel throughout the course of
the study protocol.
- No recent or anticipated major life stressors over the course of the study protocol
(e.g. impending divorce or terminal illness of a relative).