Apr 30 2014, 7:10pm CDT | by Forbes
We’ve all encountered apps capable of putting users to sleep, but that’s rarely their stated intention. Now one doctor has released a piece of software she claims will replace sleeping pills and help send insomniacs into a deep slumber.
Dr Kirstie Anderson, one of the UK’s foremost sleep experts, has made a career out of studying how humans nod off. Working with tech experts at Teeside University, Newcastle, she created an app called Sleepstation which she claimed is more effective than drugs.
She said: “I’m a neurologist that specializes in sleep disorders, there isn’t a great deal of us that work in sleep medicine. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which many of us will suffer from at some point in our lives.
“But the people who have chronic insomnia dread climbing the stairs and going to bed. It’s a life-altering condition that has a massive health and well-being impact.”
Her app uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to ensure a good night’s rest. Based on a recognized and effective treatment for insomnia, it shows users videos detailing the best ways to sleep and allows them to keep a diary .
“The CBT for insomnia program is a very good simple package with lots of research evidence for benefit,” Anderson continued. “It works at least as well as sleeping tablets, but without any of the side effects, and lasts for longer. Up to 80% of people who receive the treatment see improved sleep following the program.”
In clinical tests, more than 80 percent of insomniacs reported better sleep after using Sleepstation. Key to its success is the level of interactivity it offers. It is personalized for each user and changes its advice based on their sleep pattern. Insomniacs are first assessed by a doctor, before being supported remotely as they go through the CBT course, which is exactly the same one already offered by NHS staff.
If it’s money worries that are keeping you up at night, this app probably won’t help. At £59 ($100), it isn’t exactly the cheapest app on the market. But in the UK, the National Health Service are now prescribing it, meaning that insomniacs will be able to get it for free, or at a nominal cost.
“Between five to 10% of the population will have chronic insomnia at any stage and it affects other parts of a person’s wellbeing,” Anderson added. “If you’ve had a first bout of depression one of the most important risk factors for a second bout of depression is ongoing insomnia.
“The main treatment for insomnia at the moment is sleeping pills, with 10 million people taking then nationally. These pills come with a lot of side effects and little effect on chronic insomnia. Bearing this in mind SleepStation really could make a massive difference to potentially millions of people’s lives.”
SleepStation is not the first sleep app and is unlikely to be the last. Sleep As Android, for instance, and Sleep Cycle both monitor a snoozing person’s sleeping pattern and then wake them at the optimal point in the morning. SleepRate goes a step further by shipping along with a heart rate monitor, which is strapped to an insomniac’s chest when they go to bed. A unique sleep plan is then drawn up based on the results. There are even apps which allows you to count sheep, a distinctly old school method of getting your head down.
Nonetheless, Anderson’s link up with the NHS will give her app’s chances of success a clear boost, although it won’t help outside of the UK. With so many apps already on the market, Anderson had better make sure she’s not caught napping if she wants to beat the competition.
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