Effects of a digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia on sleep and alcohol consumption in heavy drinkers: A randomized pilot study

Justin J. Verlinden, Mairead E. Moloney, Olga A. Vsevolozhskaya, Lee M. Ritterband, Fiona Winkel, Jessica Weafer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Insomnia is a well-established, prospective risk factor for Alcohol Use Disorder. Thus, targeting sleep problems could serve as a novel and efficacious means of reducing problematic drinking. Here, we examined the potential utility of a well-validated, interactive, easy to use, self-paced digital cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia program. In a randomized, single-blind pilot study, we examined the impact of treatment with Sleep Healthy Using the Internet (SHUTi) on drinking and sleep outcomes in a sample of heavy drinkers with insomnia. Methods: Heavy drinking men (n = 28) and women (n = 42) with insomnia were randomly assigned to complete either the SHUTi program or a control patient education program. Subjective measures of sleep and alcohol use were administered at baseline, immediately following completion of the intervention, 3 months post-intervention, and 6 months post-intervention. Sleep outcomes were assessed using the Insomnia Severity Index and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Drinking outcomes were assessed using the 30-Day Timeline Follow-Back calendar. We used linear mixed effects models to compare groups on both insomnia and drinking outcomes. Results: Data from all 70 subjects (SHUTI: n = 40; control: n = 30) were analyzed. Linear mixed effects models showed that SHUTi significantly reduced insomnia symptoms (p = 0.01) and drinking outcomes (ps < 0.05) more than the control condition over time. Trend-level effects on sleep quality (p = 0.06) were also observed. No adverse events were reported. Conclusions: Improving sleep may be an effective treatment intervention for reducing hazardous drinking in at-risk individuals. Further, findings provide preliminary support for the implementation of an easily accessible health behavior intervention with significant public health impact in a high-risk population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2354-2365
Number of pages12
JournalAlcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Research Society on Alcohol.


  • AUD
  • SHUTi
  • online
  • treatment
  • web

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Toxicology


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