Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Improves Sleep, PTSD in Evacuees of Natural Disasters

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Investigators sought to determine the mental health needs of evacuees of devastating wildfires in Canada and to distribute evidence-based tools to promote resilience.

An online treatment platform consisting of psychoeducation for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and education regarding sleep management is a potentially effective strategy for reducing posttraumatic stress, according to research presented at World Sleep 2019, held September 20 to 25, in Vancouver, Canada.

Researchers enrolled evacuees of the Fort McMurray wildfires that occurred in Canada on May 1, 2016, in this study. A total of 697 individuals who participated in a baseline phone survey that assessed prevalence of PTSD, insomnia, and depression in this population expressed interest to participate. In the final cohort, researchers randomly assigned participants to a treatment condition (n=69) or a waitlist control condition (n=67).

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The treatment condition consisted of a therapist-assisted self-help online cognitive behavior therapy that provided 12 sessions of psychoeducation on PTSD, sleep, and depression. Participants also received education regarding sleep management, including sleep hygiene education, stimulus control, and restriction of time in bed. They completed sleep diaries and self-assessment measures of PTSD, insomnia, and depression during the study.

Individuals randomly assigned to the treatment group completed a mean of 5±5.26 online therapy sessions, and 17 participants completed ≥50% of the treatment. The treatment condition was associated with improvements in the symptoms of PTSD, insomnia, and depression.

Limitations of the study include the predominantly large proportion of women (76%) and the self-reported nature of improvements in the PTSD and sleep parameters.

“This computerized psychotherapeutic tool was successful to provide access to specialized evidence-based mental health care to promote resilience and better sleep after a disaster in a remote population,” the researchers concluded.


Belleville G, Lebel J, Ouellet MC, et al. RESILIENT – an online multidimensional treatment to promote resilience and better sleep: a randomized controlled trial. Abstract presented at World Sleep 2019 Congress; September 20-25, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.