By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Dr. Daniel Taylor, a University of North Texas associate professor of psychology, has received a four-year, $1.16 million grant from the Defense Department to determine the effectiveness of online and face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy on active duty military personnel with insomnia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that thoughts control emotions and actions, and that people can change their behaviors to improve their mental health. With regard to sleep disorders, Taylor said, people can learn to keep to a regular sleep schedule and not watch TV or perform other non-sleep activities in bed, among other behaviors.
Such therapies, especially face-to-face therapy, have proven successful and led to voluntary decreased medication consumption in civilian populations, Taylor said, but have yet to be widely tested in active duty military populations.
He is also interested to see whether the online therapy will be more successful in military populations, which generally have high computer literacy and access to computers.
Taylor, whose father was in the Air Force, hopes his findings can help the military help its members.
"The overall goal is that this is going to help us determine how to best treat active-duty soldiers who have sleep problems," he said, which could lead to decreased suicide rates among Army personnel and increased battle readiness.
Insomnia is defined as significant difficulties falling or staying asleep that interfere with daytime activities for more than one month, Taylor said.
According to data in the May 2010 Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, a Defense Department publication, insomnia rates among Army personnel have grown every year since at least 2000, peaking at 226 reported cases for every 10,000 soldiers in 2009.
The report also shows that insomnia rates among Army personnel are higher than in any other branch of the military.
Up to 40 percent of insomniacs have concurrent psychological conditions, and insomniacs have been shown to be at higher risk of work and vehicle-related accidents, the report states.
Taylor is working with the South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, or STRONG STAR, in his research.
By next spring, they will recruit 189 Fort Hood soldiers with chronic insomnia to receive three sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy over six weeks, either in person from Fort Hood clinicians or through an online program. There also will be a waiting list of interested personnel, which will function as the control group.
Research will begin in the spring. Interested soldiers should look for fliers around post at that time, Taylor said.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.