Does comorbid obstructive sleep apnea impair the effectiveness of cognitive and behavioral therapy for insomnia?

Alexander Sweetman, Leon Lack, Sky Lambert, Michael Gradisar, Jodie Harris

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    AIMS: Comorbid insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) represents a highly prevalent and debilitating condition; however, physicians and researchers are still uncertain about the most effective treatment approach. Several research groups have suggested that these patients should initially receive treatment for their insomnia before the sleep apnea is targeted. The current study aims to determine whether Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i) can effectively treat insomnia in patients with comorbid OSA and whether its effectiveness is impaired by the presence of OSA. METHODS: A retrospective chart review was conducted to examine 455 insomnia patients entering a CBT-i treatment program in a hospital out-patient setting. Three hundred and fourteen patients were diagnosed with insomnia alone and 141 with insomnia and comorbid OSA. Improvements in average sleep diary parameters, global insomnia severity, and several daytime functioning questionnaires from baseline, to post-treatment, to 3-month follow-up were compared between insomnia patients with and without comorbid OSA. RESULTS: Insomnia patients with comorbid OSA experienced significant improvements in insomnia symptoms, global insomnia severity, and other daytime functioning measures during and following treatment. Furthermore, improvements were no different between patients with or without comorbid OSA. Sleep apnea presence and severity were not related to rates of insomnia-remission or treatment-resistance following treatment. CONCLUSIONS: CBT-i is an effective treatment in the presence of comorbid OSA. This information offers support for the suggestion that patients with comorbid insomnia and OSA should be treated with CBT-i prior to the treatment of the OSA.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)38-46
    Number of pages9
    JournalSleep Medicine
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


    • Insomnia
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia
    • Comorbid insomnia
    • Secondary insomnia
    • Obstructive sleep apnea


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