Hart Rate Variability Biofeedback Increased Autonomic Activation and Improved Symptoms of Depression and Insomnia among Patients with Major Depression Disorder. Lin IM, Fan SY, Yen CF, Yeh YC, Tang TC, Huang MF, Liu TL, Wang PW, Lin HC, Tsai HY, Tsai YC1.

OBJECTIVE: Autonomic imbalance is considered a psychopathological mechanism underlying major depressive disorder (MDD). Heart rate variability (HRV) is an index for autonomic activation. Poor sleep quality is common among patients with MDD. HRV biofeedback (BF) has been used for regulating autonomic balance among patients with physical illness and mental disorders. The purpose of present study was to examine the effects of HRV-BF on depressive symptoms, sleep quality, pre-sleep arousal, and HRV indices, in patients with MDD and insomnia.

METHODS: In this case-controlled study, patients with MDD and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score higher than 6 were recruited. The HRV-BF group received weekly 60-minute protocol for 6 weeks, and the control group who have matched the age and sex received medical care only. All participants were assessed on Beck Depression Inventory-II, Back Anxiety Inventory, PSQI, and Pre-Sleep Arousal Scale. Breathing rates and electrocardiography were also performed under resting state at pre-testing, and post-testing conditions and for the HRV-BF group, also at 1-month follow-up.

RESULTS: In the HRV-BF group, symptoms of depression and anxiety, sleep quality, and pre-sleep arousal were significantly improved, and increased HRV indices, compared with the control group. Moreover, in the HRV-BF group, significantly improved symptoms of depression and anxiety, decreased breathing rates, and increased HRV indices were detected at post-testing and at 1-month follow-up, compared with pre-testing values.

CONCLUSION: This study confirmed that HRV-BF is a useful psychosocial intervention for improving autonomic balance, baroreflex, and symptoms of depression and insomnia in MDD patients

The efficacy of biofeedback for the treatment of insomnia: a critical review. Lovato N, Miller CB, Gordon CJ, Grunstein RR, Lack L.

BACKGROUND: The popularity of biofeedback as a non-pharmacological treatment option for insomnia has increased in recent times despite inconsistent empirical evidence for its therapeutic efficacy.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the current review was to systematically assess the efficacy of using biofeedback to treat insomnia.

METHODS AND RESULTS: A search of electronic databases (PubMED, MEDLINE, OvidSP, Ovid EMBASE, PsychInfo, The Cochrane Library including Cochrane Reviews), clinical trials databases and registries (Clinical Trials Database [US], Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry [ANZCTR]) and online journal (eg, SLEEP, Sleep Medicine) identified 92 studies. Of these, 50 publications were descriptive or review papers about use of biofeedback for the treatment of insomnia, while an additional 37 did not meet the detailed inclusion criteria (ie not original research, participants do not meet the diagnostic criteria for insomnia). Six full-text articles met inclusion criteria and were included in this review. Methodological flaws including poor study design (small sample size, lack of control group) limit the validity of the body of work in this field to date and fail adequately to account for other unspecified factors likely to drive the observed changes, such as care and attention of those administering the treatment, as well as the expectations and motivations of the patient.