Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Winter 2018

Sleep Health Improvement: A Need for Personalized Interventions

Michael Mead, MS, Tracy Trevorrow, PhD, Eric Zhou, PhD, and Natasha J Williams, EdD, MPH, MSW, Sleep SIG members

Inadequate sleep duration and poor sleep quality is a significant public health issue in the United States, with many Americans reporting poor sleep health. Currently, the most widely used approach for sleep health improvement in non-clinical populations is sleep hygiene, a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations that promote healthy sleep.1 Sleep hygiene education provide participants with general knowledge related to sleep (e.g., reduce caffeine consumption, obtain regular physical activity, keep a relaxing sleep environment). However, studies testing the efficacy of these programs are inconsistent.2

The success of these programs is likely limited by a lack of personalization, instead using a cookie cutter approach that provides the same information to all participants. This is problematic, given that sleep is multifaceted and participants have varying sleep health needs. Thus, participants would benefit from more personalized information regarding their sleep health behaviors. For instance, a participant may be physically active and not drink caffeine in the evening, but uses technology in bed before attempting to fall asleep. Thus, an intervention tailored to this specific need would likely yield more successful results compared to a generalized intervention.3,4

One avenue for delivering large-scale, personalized sleep health education is the Internet. A recent study tested an online intervention that delivered personalized sleep education (treatment group) compared with no sleep education (control group) among college students.5 After 8 weeks, participants in the intervention group reported improved sleep health behaviors such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, decrease in mean depression score and improved sleep quality. This study provides promise for personalized sleep health interventions, but more research is needed to test and refine them. Listed below are several recommendations for future research to continue to refine sleep health improvement efforts.

  • Utilize randomized controlled trials to compare the effectiveness of personalized verses generalized interventions.
  • Develop and implement personalized interventions to at-risk populations, including racial/ethnic minorities, college students, and low socioeconomic status communities.
  • Utilize objective measures to evaluate the impact of personalized interventions on sleep.
  • Determine the optimum delivery methods (e.g., mobile applications, SMS text messaging, Internet).


Irish, L. A., Kline, C. E., Gunn, H. E., Buysse, D. J., & Hall, M. H. (2015). The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 22, 23-36.1

Blunden, S. L., Chapman, J., & Rigney, G. A. (2012). Are sleep education programs successful? The case for improved and consistent research efforts. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 16(4), 355–370.2

Noar, S. M., Benac, C. N., & Harris, M. S. (2007). Does tailoring matter? Meta-analytic review of tailored print health behavior change interventions. Psychological Bulletin, 133(4), 673.3

Krebs, P., Prochaska, J. O., & Rossi, J. S. (2010). A meta-analysis of computer-tailored interventions for health behavior change. Preventive Medicine, 51(3-4), 214-221.4

Hershner, S., & O'Brien, L. M. (2018). The impact of a randomized sleep education intervention for college students. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 14(03), 337-347.5