Artificial selection

Artificial intelligence sleep app may mean the end of sleeping pills for insomniacs

Friday 20 May 2022 04:00 BST

A new artificial intelligence application for sleep has been developed that could replace sleeping pills for people suffering from insomnia.

Sleepio uses a AI algorithm to provide individuals with tailored cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it would save the NHS money and reduce prescriptions for drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone, which can create a addiction.

Its economic analysis found that healthcare costs were lower after one year of Sleepio use, mainly due to fewer GP appointments and prescribed sleeping pills.

The app offers a six-week digital self-help program that includes a sleep test, weekly interactive CBT-I sessions, and sleep-pattern journaling.

Sessions focus on identifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to symptoms of insomnia. Cognitive interventions aim to improve how a person thinks about sleep and behavioral interventions aim to promote a healthy sleep routine.

Nice predicts that up to 800,000 people could benefit from using Sleepio in England.

Reduce the use of addictive drugs

The program is designed to be completed in six weeks, but people have full access to the program for 12 months from registration.

This allows people to complete sessions at their own pace and review sessions. Participants can also access e-library articles, online tools, and join the online Sleepio user community for support.

A daily sleep diary helps users track their progress, and the program tailors advice to individuals. Users can fill in the log manually or the data can be downloaded automatically from a compatible wearable tracking device, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit.

Clinical evidence presented to the Nice Medical Technology Advisory Committee from 12 randomized controlled trials showed that Sleepio is more effective in reducing insomnia than sleep hygiene and sleeping pills.

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Jeanette Kusel, acting director of MedTech and digital in Nice, said that so far patients have been offered sleeping pills and told about sleep hygiene.

She said a ‘rigorous, transparent and evidence-based analysis’ found Sleepio had saved the NHS money and reduced reliance on addictive drugs sometimes used to treat disease.

“This is a good example of where digital health technology can help the NHS.

“Evidence has shown that using Sleepio reduces the number of GP appointments for people with insomnia and will also reduce the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills issued by pharmacists.”

The cost of Sleepio is £45 (excluding VAT) per person.

The Nice Independent Committee recommended that a medical evaluation be performed before referring to Sleepio during pregnancy and in people with multiple conditions.

He also recommended more research or data collection to show the effectiveness of Sleepio compared to face-to-face CBT-I.