A technique called imagery rehearsal therapy not only helps chronic insomniacs get a good night’s sleep, it also seems to help lessen depression and anxiety, according to research presented at SLEEP 2007, the 21st annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in New York.
“Imagery therapy is something people can teach themselves to do,” said Yara Molen of Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Molen studied 24 chronic insomniacs. All of them participated in a two hour meeting over five weeks during which they received standard education on sleep hygiene and stimulus control, and knowledge about beliefs and attitudes that are not conducive to good sleep. Twelve of the subjects in the experimental arm were also taught how to practise imagery therapy. “They listened to an audio CD right before bed that teaches breathing, relaxation and guided imagery that helps them get rid of their worries and imagine drifting off to sleep,” Dr Molen explained.
“Worries, as well as anxiety and depression, disturb a lot of sleeping in a lot of people,” she said. “People have to discover the emotions behind the worries and release their worries before going to bed. This CD helps them do that.”
Insomniacs practising nightly imagery rehearsal therapy reported an improvement in both sleep quantity and quality. “Total time of sleep increased by 30 minutes compared with a control group not practising imagery therapy,” Dr Molen said. “We also saw a diminution of depression rates and anxiety with imagery therapy.” Her guided imagery sleep audio CD is currently for research purposes only, but she has plans to market it.
Asthma and antibiotics
The use of commonly prescribed “broad-spectrum” antibiotics, which destroy a wide range of bacteria, during infancy may raise the risk of asthma later in childhood, according to a study by researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. “Antibiotics are prescribed mostly for respiratory tract infections, yet respiratory symptoms can be a sign of future asthma. This may make it difficult to attribute antibiotic use to asthma development,” lead author Anita Kozyrskyj said in a statement. “Our study reported on antibiotic use in children being treated for non-respiratory tract infections, which distinguishes the effect of the antibiotic,” she explained.
Kozyrskyj and colleagues analysed data for 13,116 children who were born in 1995. Antibiotic use during the first year of life was compared with the development of asthma by seven years of age.
Antibiotic use during infancy was a risk factor for asthma in later childhood. Moreover, the risk rose as the number of antibiotic courses increased; with four or more courses, the likelihood of asthma increased by 46% compared with no antibiotic use. The link between antibiotic use and asthma was particularly strong for children in rural areas and for those who had mothers without a history of asthma and without a dog. Previous reports have suggested that by “priming” the immune response, such as regular exposure to a dog early in life, may reduce the risk of asthma, the authors note.