The NHS has revealed that 65 per cent of patients using a web-based sleep improvement app have recovered from depression and anxiety, offering hope to many people who are looking for an alternative to drug-based therapies.
The digital sleep improvement programme, Sleepio, is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques where each patient is treated individually according to their own needs.
Sleeping for better health
The app works by allowing you to work out your ‘Sleep Score’. You will then learn sleep improvement techniques from an animated sleep expert known as ‘The Prof’. Other tools include a ‘Thought Checker’ to a ‘Daily Schedule’. The aim is to help you fall asleep – and stay asleep (presuming you don’t have small children who wake up regularly, that is).
So far the Manchester Self Help Services, part of the NHS IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme, has distributed Sleepio to over 100 patients who struggle with insomnia, depression and anxiety. Sleepio has been developed by healthcare company Big Health and is available online and via the Apple Store.
“Through using Sleepio at Self Help Services, we have supported clients to learn techniques that have not only helped their quality and quantity of sleep but reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety,” said Nick Baldwin, eTherapy Coordinator, Manchester Self Help Services.
“We have seen these improvements in standard IAPT questionnaires and in feedback from clients during their weekly support calls. Our Sleepio service has helped clients gain independence and control over their sleep and general wellbeing.”
MY WORD ON IT…
One doctor I spoke to said that often she meets patients who complain of general aches, pains and lethargy – yet there is often nothing of concern that shows up following medical tests. In the end, she revealed that these symptoms usually come down to issues with sleep, depression and anxiety.
Often people don’t want to take pills because of worries they will become dependent on them or that there may be side effects. In this respect, these findings reveal the effectiveness of a digital programme at helping alleviate sleep problems without having to take pills, which will also be much cheaper than traditional talking or drug therapies.
Reassuringly, the app has been independently tested by the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. It could be hugely beneficial to many people who have to wait a long time to get their first appointment with the NHS or struggle to get out of the house (not to mention that many private therapies can be expensive). However, it looks like something that health professionals should promote as a first step or to complement face-to-face therapies, rather than a standalone solution to people plagued by sleeping problems.