Data from previous studies suggest that women are up to 40% more likely to experience insomnia disorder compared with men, Eric S. Zhou, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues wrote. The risk is even higher among Black women, but research on tailored treatments for this particular population has been limited.
In their study, published in, the researchers recruited women with elevated insomnia symptoms who were enrolled in the Black Women’s Health Study, an ongoing national, longitudinal research cohort in the United States. Participants were recruited between October 2019 and June 2020.The participants were randomized to an Internet-delivered behavior intervention (108 women), a stakeholder-informed Internet intervention tailored to Black women (110 women), or non-Internet patient education about sleep (115 women).
The Internet intervention, known as Sleep Healthy Using the Internet (SHUTi), was a 6-session program lasting 45-60 minutes per session and delivered over 6-9 weeks. The program included core elements of cognitive behavioral therapy and took into account information provided by patients about their baseline sleep function, treatment adherence, and sleep progress.
The tailored version of SHUTi for Black women (SHUTi-BWHS) was similar, but included Black actors for video vignettes and the inclusion of content about the cultural and social contexts in which insomnia often occurs for Black women, such while managing neighborhood noise and or living in crowded environments.
A third group received standard patient education material about sleep through a noninteractive website, and served as the control group.
The primary outcome of insomnia severity was measured using the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), a 0- to 28-point scale. Scores for the ISI are based on responses to seven questions, including some that ask participants to rate the severity of their insomnia symptoms.
Clinically significant improvement in insomnia was defined as a reduction in score of more than 7 points. Patients were assessed at baseline, at 9 weeks, and again at approximately 6 months.
Significantly greater reductions in insomnia severity seen in intervention groups vs. control group
Overall, women randomized to SHUTi or SHUTi-BWHS) reported a significantly greater reduction in insomnia symptoms from baseline to 6 months, compared with the control group (P < .001), with ISI score decreases of 10.0, 9.3, and 3.6, respectively. No statistically significant differences in ISI score changes appeared between the between the SHUTi-BWHS and SHUTi groups.
Also, significantly more women in the SHUTi-BWHS group than in the SHUTi group completed the intervention (78.2% vs. 64.8%).
Treatment response was similar between the SHUTI-BWHS and SHUTi groups; 47.3% and 46.3%, respectively, had a decrease in ISI score of more than 7 points. In addition, 37% of women in the SHUTi-BWHS and 38% of women in the SHUTi groups reached ISI scores of less than 8 points, defined as full resolution of insomnia, by the last follow-up visit.
Both the SHUTi and SHUTi-BWHS interventions had dramatic effects on insomnia, but the increased number of women who completed the intervention in the SHUTi-BWHS group supports the value of tailored intervention, the researchers noted. “Similar to prior SHUTi trials, there was a direct association between the participant’s level of intervention engagement and their improvement in sleep.”
The average age of the participants was 60 years, 62% were single, and 44% had a graduate degree or higher. Approximately 5% were being actively treated for sleep apnea.
The study findings were limited by several factors including the relatively high socioeconomic status of the study participants, lack of data on medical mistrust, and inability to detect smaller differences between SHUTi and SHUTi-BWHS, the researchers noted.