A feasibility study to explore the use of digital treatment of sleep as a first-step intervention to improve adolescent mental health

Abigail Mathews, Naomi Gibbons, Obioha C. Ukoumunne, Emma Harrison, Paul Stallard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


INTRODUCTION Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBTi), delivered face-to-face or digitally, can improve the mental health of adults. Although insomnia is common in adolescents, the effects of digital CBTi on adolescent mental health have seldom been investigated.
OBJECTIVES The aims of this study were to explore: (i) the acceptability of a digital CBTi intervention, Sleepio, as a first-step intervention for adolescents referred to specialist mental health services (CAMHS), (ii) the impact on sleep and mental health and (iii) subsequent CAMHS interventions.
METHOD Sleepio is a computerized CBTi intervention comprised of six sequentially delivered sessions. Digital Sleepio was offered to new referrals to CAMHS with poor sleep and mental health problems. Results. Of the 75 eligible adolescents, 70 (93%; 95% CI: 85% to 98%) accepted Sleepio with 59 starting the programme and consenting to participate in the study. Of these, 37 (63%; 95% CI: 49% to 75%) completed at least half of the programme. There were post-intervention improvements in sleep, mood, and anxiety; the improvement in sleep was greater for those who completed at least half the programme compared to those who did not. Of those who completed all the programme, 55% (15/29) did not need any subsequent specialist CAMHS input. Of the 11 adolescents who accepted but never started Sleepio, none engaged with other CAMHS interventions and were subsequently discharged.
CONCLUSION Our study has a number of limitations, in particular the absence of a control group and the loss of follow-up data for programme drop-outs. Nonetheless, these results suggest that digital CBTi may offer a novel and acceptable way of improving the sleep and mental health of adolescents with insomnia. A fully powered randomized controlled trial is required to obtain definitive estimates of the effects of the intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-184
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date18 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The project was sponsored by the University of Bath and approved by the North of Scotland Research Ethics Service (ref: 20/NS/0049). The project was funded by NHSX, the information technology unit of NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'A feasibility study to explore the use of digital treatment of sleep as a first-step intervention to improve adolescent mental health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this