SleepWell study brings positive results for young people at high risk of psychosis

New research shows the link between sleep and psychosis in young people at high risk of psychosis and highlights the importance of effective psychological treatment.

Evidence says that chronic sleep disruption is common in young patients with mental health conditions.  When psychological therapy to improve sleep is provided, improvements in sleep as well as reductions in anxiety, depression, and psychotic experiences are reported.

In the first trial of its kind at two NHS trusts, young mental health patients aged 14-25 identified as at high risk of psychosis and suffering from sleep problems were offered either targeted psychological therapy called “SleepWell” in addition to usual care (1) or usual care alone.   Based on the positive results, the same team of Oxford researchers will now lead a wider trial starting in 2024 to confirm the clinical benefits of this approach and prepare for roll out into NHS services.

The study group was facilitated by the McPin Foundation. One of the young advisors said:

“For years I had felt ignored and misunderstood as I championed the importance of sleep in mental health recovery. The SleepWell team are non-judgemental, very supportive, and have a clear passion for improving mental health care in the UK.”

University of Oxford and OH BRC Psychological Treatments Theme lead researcher Felicity Waite said:

“We are really excited to see the potential benefits on mental health from this trial – particularly for a group of young people who are facing many challenges. The findings, especially the improvements in psychotic experiences are highly promising. However, the primary limitation was that it was a small feasibility trial. A larger trial is needed, and our team will start such a trial in 2024.”

“We are really grateful to all the participants who took part, the clinical teams and research and development teams in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust who supported the project, as well as the lived experience advisory group – facilitated by the McPin Foundation, the fantastic researchers and advisory committees, and the NIHR and Oxford Health BRC for funding the work.”

Read the full report published in the Lancet Psychiatry.

1 – Usual care typically consisted of infrequent contact with a general practitioner or mental health professional for assessment, and prescription of psychotropic medication (most often antidepressant medication) as needed.

Published: 22 August 2023
Last reviewed: 4 January, 2024