Patients with insomnia should be prescribed self-help apps instead of sleeping pills

Hundreds of thousands of people suffering from insomnia are being offered treatment via a mobile app instead of a prescription for sleeping pills.

GPs can suggest the Sleepio artificial intelligence app to patients with problems after the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence (Nice) recommended it as an effective alternative to medication.

The app uses an algorithm to provide patients with a personalized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program to help them identify and address the factors contributing to their insomnia.

Patients will focus on identifying their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to experienced bouts of insomnia, with the goal of promoting a healthy sleep routine.

The digital treatment offers a sleep test, monitors sleep patterns and offers weekly interactive CBT sessions.

The Sleepio program is designed to be completed in six weeks

(Sleepio / Nice)

A daily sleep diary will help users track behavioral habits — entered manually or pulled from devices like Fitbit — which will be used to provide tailored advice.

You also have access to an electronic library of help articles, online tools, and community support.

Each program is designed to be completed over six weeks, however patients have access to the app for up to a year after enrollment.

Evidence from 12 random studies presented to the Nice Advisory Committee showed that Sleepio was more effective than sleeping pills and sleep hygiene at reducing insomnia.

Many GPs are concerned about prescribing sleeping pills — like zopiclone and zolpidem — because they can be addictive, and so Sleepio could lead to a reduction in the number of patients who depend on medication.

At the same time, the app could also help the NHS save money after an analysis found healthcare costs were lower after a year of use as a treatment – largely due to fewer doctor’s appointments being booked and prescriptions being written.

Analysis suggests the app is more effective than sleeping pills

(Sleepio / Nice)

Jeanette Kusel, Acting Director of MedTech and Digital at Nice, said: “Until now, people with insomnia have been offered sleeping pills and educated about sleep hygiene, so our committee’s recommendation for Sleepio offers family doctors and their patients a new treatment option.

“Our rigorous, transparent and evidence-based analysis has shown that Sleepio represents a cost saving for the NHS compared to standard primary care treatments. It will also reduce dependence of people with insomnia on addictive drugs like zolpidem and zopiclone.

“This is a good example of how digital health technology can help the NHS. Evidence has shown that using Sleepio will reduce the number of GP appointments people with insomnia require and will also reduce the number of sleeping pill prescriptions that are supplied by pharmacists.” Patients with insomnia should be prescribed self-help apps instead of sleeping pills

Bobby Allyn

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