Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

George M. Batsche


Behavioral treatments for insomnia have seen increasing use in recent years due to the inefficacy of pharmacological treatments. Behavioral treatments utilized have included progressive relaxation training, systematic desensitization, stimulus control procedures, biofeedback, autogenic training, paradoxical instructions, and several miscellaneous procedures. Research has shown all of these treatments to be effective, although there have been methodological flaws in many of the studies. Stimulus control procedures have never been compared to progressive relaxation in the treatment of insomnia.

In the present study six insomniacs with a mean latency to sleep onset of at least 30 minutes were used to compare stimulus contol procedures and progressive relaxation training in the treatment of insomnia. Subjects were university students ranging in age from 18 to 21 years. Subjects included two males and four females who reported having had insomnia for an average of 2.2 years. Subjects were instructed to self-record daily latency to sleep onset and frequency of awakenings during the night. After a two week baseline period subjects were ranked according to mean latency to sleep onset. Then, in successive blocks of two, subjects were randomly assigned to either a simulus control or progressive relaxation treatment condition. Subjects in each group were given counter demand and demand instuctions in order to control expectancy and demand effects. Treatments for each group lasted four weeks while subjects continued to self-record their sleep behavior.

Results indicated that each of the progressive relaxation subjects improved their mean latency to sleep onset beyond a clinically significant 30 minute criterion level. In contrast, only two of the three stimulus contol subjects attained this level of improvement. One progressive relaxation subject's success should not be interpreted as being due to the treatment conditions since the baseline data indicated a downward trend in mean latency to sleep onset. Each progressive relaxation subject showed progressively fewer awakenings once treatment had begun. Data from the stimulus control subjects was difficult to interpret. One subject showed a decrease in awakenings while the other two reported no awakenings during the entire experiment.

The results indicated that progressive relaxation training and stimulus control procedures are both effective treatments for insomnia. Results also indicated that progressive relaxation training may be the superior of the two treatments.

Included in

Psychology Commons