Sleep Healthy Using the Internet


A WORLD-FIRST Australian study will investigate whether an online program aimed at treating insomnia can also reduce depression.

A US web-based training course, SHUTi (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet),is being brought to Australia as part of an NHMRC-funded study into the effects of insomnia and depression.

It's been touted as one of the world's first online treatments to help people get a good night's sleep by changing their behaviour.

The program has been clinically proven in a US study that found adult insomniacs reported significant improvement in their sleeping  patterns.

Through tutorials and modules, the web course trains people to change their sleeping habits and the way they think about snoozing by providing feedback to individuals based on their sleep patterns.

Techniques range from encouraging people to avoid sleep-blocking stimulants like caffeine and alcohol; reading or watching TV before bed; and ways to shut out that annoying voice warning about insomnia.

A local version of the study was launched on Wednesday to coincide with the 2012 International Black Dog Lecture, hosted by the Black Dog Institute, Sydney.

The institute aims to recruit about 1600 volunteers to take part in a study that will research the link between insomnia, depression and other mental disorders.

The Australian study will be much larger than the US one as it is based on a population study, and aims to prevent rather than treat mood disorders, anxiety and depression.

Study leader Professor Helen Christensen, from the Black Dog Institute, said while taking an online approach to mental health was not new, the research is the first that applies psychological intervention for insomnia and depression.

Professor Christensen said the findings of the research could have global use.

"If we are able to show this [program] effectively reduces the development of depression and other disorders, then it really is a major weapon in the war against depression," she said.

"That's because it can be developed to the population at large and that it can be disseminated globally."

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