New sleep study offered to children with nightmares

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TU currently accepting applicants for its first treatment trial in children

An innovative treatment for reducing nightmares in adults developed at The University of Tulsa has been adapted for children and is now offered at no cost in a new trial study.

Professors in the TU Department of Psychology say studies show far too many children suffer frequent and severe nightmares and other sleep problems caused by traumatic events such as child abuse and motor vehicle accidents. As a result, the lack of quality sleep can lead to health problems in children that may last years, even decades.

“Poor sleep quality is associated with a host of problems including difficulties concentrating, irritability, emotional extremes, and physical health problems,” said Joanne Davis, TU associate professor of psychology and codirector of the Tulsa Institute for Trauma, Abuse and Neglect (TITAN). “There are effective treatments available for many of the consequences of traumatic events including post-traumatic stress disorder, but they may not alleviate sleep problems.”

Recent research by TU faculty and graduate students shows that adults effectively respond to brief, cognitive-behavioral treatments where they are asked to discuss their dreams and their possible causes. The treatment method, known as Exposure, Relaxation and Rescripting Therapy (ERRT), was developed by Davis in 2009 and has successfully reduced sleep problems in adults. However, little research has been conducted on the treatment of trauma-related nightmares in children.

“Following the success of ERRT, we’re now adapting the application to children,” Davis said. “A recent case series of ERRT with children showed promise in treating trauma-related nightmares as well as sleep difficulties, mood swings and anxiety disorder symptoms.”

TU is currently accepting participants for its first treatment trial in children ages 8 to 12.

TITAN Research Center