The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Institutes of Health recommend two proven therapies for chronic insomnia, doctor-prescribed sleep medicine – which should be restricted to short-term use, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia. There isn’t enough scientific evidence on other treatments, like over-the-counter products or herbal remedies, to prove that they actually work or to be able to rule out any safety concerns.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a preferred treatment choice for chronic insomnia. CBT-I works by helping individuals identify and change the thoughts, habits and behaviors that can cause or worsen their sleep problems. We know sleep medications have a risk of dependency or adverse side effects. But, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia focuses on helping people overcome the underlying cause of their sleep problem, so they can keep sleeping better even after their CBT-I sessions end.
Sleepio is an evidence-based digital sleep improvement program, grounded in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. The content is based on self-help techniques developed by leading sleep expert, Prof Colin Espie (University of Oxford). Sleepio was created by Big Health, the digital medicine company (www.bighealth.com).
Does Sleepio work?
Sleepio is backed by gold standard scientific evidence In our first randomised controlled trial, Sleepio helped 76% of poor-sleepers overcome their sleep problems, and was significantly more effective than placebo and treatment as usual (Espie et al. 2012).
What does Sleepio involve?
Sleepio starts with a short sleep test which generates a sleep score from 0 to 10, and sends a personal sleep report by email. Users who decide to sign up for the full CBT program create an account and then complete a more detailed sleep questionnaire. Each week users are reminded to log on to www.sleepio.com to meet ‘The Prof’, their animated sleep expert. Over 6 core sessions, The Prof teaches CBT techniques that are personalized to the user’s specific problems and progress. These techniques address each user’s thoughts, daily schedule and lifestyle, and give them more control over their sleep.
Between sessions, users are encouraged to record their sleep with an online sleep diary, and practice techniques with the help of online tools and automated reminders. There is also a secure online community of other Sleepio members and course ‘Graduates’ where users can seek advice and encouragement from people who have ‘been there and done that’.
For more information on how the program works, please see: https://vimeo.com/62600280
Who can Sleepio help?
Sleepio can help people who struggle to fall asleep, are unable to stay asleep through the night or wake up too early. This is the case regardless of whether the sleep problems have existed for years, or have only developed in recent weeks. The program has even been shown to be effective in those who are taking prescription sleeping pills or over-the-counter sleep aids.
To be effective, the program requires users to commit to making changes to their lifestyle and schedule over a number of weeks. Users need to be prepared for this and willing to put the effort in. The program has been developed for adults, and is not suitable for poor sleepers under the age of 16.