Background: The popularity of biofeedback as a non-pharmacological treatment option for insomnia has increased in recent times despite inconsistent empirical evidence for its therapeutic efficacy.
Objective: The purpose of the current review was to systematically assess the efficacy of using biofeedback to treat insomnia.
Methods and results: A search of electronic databases (PubMED, MEDLINE, OvidSP, Ovid EMBASE, PsychInfo, The Cochrane Library including Cochrane Reviews), clinical trials databases and registries (Clinical Trials Database [US], Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry [ANZCTR])and online journal (eg, SLEEP, Sleep Medicine) identified 92 studies. Of these, 50 publications were descriptive or review papers about use of biofeedback for the treatment of insomnia, while an additional 37 did not meet the detailed inclusion criteria (ie not original research, participants do not meet the diagnostic criteria for insomnia). Six full-text articles met inclusion criteria and were included in this review. Methodological flaws including poor study design (small sample size, lack of control group)limit the validity of the body of work in this field to date and fail adequately to account for other unspecified factors likely to drive the observed changes, such as care and attention of those administering the treatment, as well as the expectations and motivations of the patient.
Conclusion: There is an urgent need for future studies to clarify the role of unspecific placebo effects when reporting biofeedback effects for the treatment of insomnia.