Study Finds Insomnia Can Be Treated By Placebos

OXFORD — Successfully treating insomnia may only require a placebo rather than complex neurofeedback training, a new study released by Oxford University Press finds.

The study, published in the journal Brain, saw 30 patients with primary insomnia undergo both placebo-feedback treatment and neurofeedback feedback over several weeks. Researchers concluded that patients who believe they are getting the legitimate treatment seem to also get the same benefits, according to an Oxford University Press release.

A new study finds using a placebo could be an effective treatment for insomnia.

“Given our results, one has to question how much of published neurofeeback effects are due to simple expectations on the side of the participants or, in other words, unspecific placebo effects,” said Manuel Schabus, the study’s lead author, in the release.

The researchers assessed the subjects’ sleep-wake cycles during 12 sessions of both placebo and neurofeedback treatment over nine nights and found that neurofeedback training does not have any advantage over the placebo for the treatment of primary insomnia.

However, the study was unable to identify why this is the case and attributed it to “unspecified factors,” which could include participants’ interactions with the researchers.

“Researchers found both neurofeedback and placebo-feedback to be equally effective as reflected in subjective measures of sleep complaints, suggesting that the observed improvements were due to unspecific factors such as experiencing trust and receiving care and empathy from experimenters,” the statement reads.

Because of the results, the study questioned the usefulness of neurofeedback training on a general level.

The published paper detailing the study is titled, Better than sham? A double-blind placebo-controlled neurofeedback study in primary insomnia.