Sleep disturbance in treatment-seeking OCD-patients

Although we have a fair amount of knowledge regarding obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the treatment, little is known about sleep patterns in patients with the disorder. Does sleep patterns affects treatment outcome or change as a result of treatment.

​Background

Even though OCD is considered one of the most debilitating mental disorders, there is a lack of knowledge regarding co-occurring sleep disturbance and sleep patterns in this group. Research has shown that sleep difficulties seldom are screened for and are seldom diagnosed in the mental health system, even though sleep problems are associated with worsening of the symptoms, poorer treatment outcome and higher relapse rates. As a part of the OCD team’s regular quality assurance, our aim is to look into the prevalence of sleep problems in patients with OCD and if exposure treatment can cause changes in the sleep pattern without specific sleep interventions. Since our outpatient clinic specializes in OCD, the current project gives us a unique opportunity to investigate this association in a naturalistic, unselected sample of treatment-seeking OCD patients.

Participation – measuring sleep pattern before and after treatment

All patients in regular treatment are asked to fill out a short questionnaire which measures sleep disturbance. In addition to this, patients who receive treatment will have the opportunity to wear a sleep bracelet (actigraph) at nighttime before, during and after treatment. This sleep bracelet will, among other things, give information about sleep-wake activities, including sleep efficiency, total sleep time and numbers of awakenings. The patients are also asked to complete a sleep journal during the measuring period. We have also planned to include a group of healthy subjects to complement the research project.


Håkon Nordahl is the current PhD student in the project, under the supervision of Gerd Kvale, Bjarne Hansen, and international collaborators.

The study is approved by the Regional Ethics committee for Medical Research Ethics in Western Norway (2017/4717REK vest).

Related publications

Nordahl, H., Havnen, A., Hansen, B., Öst, L.-G., & Kvale, G. (2014). Predictors of sleep disturbance in treatment seeking OCD-patients Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 11(6).

Nordahl, H., Havnen, A., Hansen, B., Öst, L.-G., & Kvale, G. (accepted). Sleep disturbance in treatment-seeking OCD-patients: Changes after concentrated exposure treatment. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.

Related international conference presentations

May 2014: Forth meeting of the EABCT S.I.G. on OCD, Assisi, Italy.