A pilot randomized controlled trial of cognitive behavioral treatment for trauma-related nightmares in active duty military personnel

STRONG STAR Consortium

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


STUDY OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to obtain preliminary data on the efficacy, credibility, and acceptability of Exposure, relaxation, and rescripting therapy for military service members and veterans (ERRT-M) in active duty military personnel with trauma-related nightmares. METHODS: Forty participants were randomized to either 5 sessions of ERRT-M or 5 weeks of minimal contact control (MCC) followed by ERRT-M. Assessments were completed at baseline, posttreatment/postcontrol, and 1-month follow-up. RESULTS: Differences between ERRT-M and control were generally medium in size for nightmare frequency (Cohen d = -0.53), nights with nightmares (d = -0.38), nightmare severity (d = -0.60), fear of sleep (d = -0.44), and symptoms of insomnia (d = -0.52), and depression (d = -0.51). In the 38 participants who received ERRT-M, there were statistically significant, medium-sized decreases in nightmare frequency (d = -0.52), nights with nightmares (d = -0.50), nightmare severity (d = -0.55), fear of sleep (d = -0.48), and symptoms of insomnia (d = -0.59), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (d = -0.58) and depression (d = -0.59) from baseline to 1-month follow-up. Participants generally endorsed medium to high ratings of treatment credibility and expectancy. The treatment dropout rate (17.5%) was comparable to rates observed for similar treatments in civilians. CONCLUSIONS: ERRT-M produced medium effect-size reductions in nightmares and several secondary outcomes including PTSD, depression, and insomnia. Participants considered ERRT-M to be credible. An adequately powered randomized clinical trial is needed to confirm findings and to compare ERRT-M to an active treatment control. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: Registry: ClinicalTrials.gov; Title: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of Treatment for Trauma-Related Nightmares In Active Duty Military Personnel; Identifier: NCT02506595; URL: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02506595.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-40
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2020



  • exposure
  • imagery rehearsal
  • nightmares
  • rescripting
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this