South Australian University Trialling Insomniac App

South Australian University Trialling Insomniac App
Instead of laying in bed awake, you may as well get up and meditate or do some CBT-I, both of which have been proven to help you get to sleep. (Shutterstock)
Steve Milne

A doctor from South Australia’s Flinders University is calling for Australian general practitioners (GPs) and insomnia sufferers to contact the university to learn how they can access an app that treats insomnia.

While “Sleepio” has been given a stamp of approval by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), in Australia, it can currently only be accessed through a Flinders University clinical trial.

Considering it has been labelled safe and effective, while also reducing the need for potentially addictive insomnia medication, Dr Alexander Sweetman from the Adelaide Institute of Sleep Health at Flinders wants Australians to benefit.

“At present, Sleepio is only available in Australia through a clinical trial, so it’s important doctors are aware it’s an option and patients can be referred to the program and assisted,” he said in a university release on Saturday.

“Our previous research has shown that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia (or ‘CBTi’) is the most effective treatment for insomnia and Sleepio is a self-administered version of that.”

Insomnia is a common and potentially debilitating disorder that can affect a person’s physical and mental health, with symptoms including taking a long time to fall asleep, frequent waking, and not feeling rested or energised the next day.

While insomnia medications merely treat symptoms, cognitive behavioural therapy targets the underlying psychological, physiological, and behavioural causes of insomnia.

Insomnia medication can be addictive.<br/>(terovesalainen/Adobe Stock)
Insomnia medication can be addictive.
(terovesalainen/Adobe Stock)

“Currently the most common treatment for insomnia in Australia is sedative-hypnotic medications, or sleeping pills, which are potentially addictive and not effective over the long-term,” Sweetman said.

“Instead, we have a treatment with cognitive behavioural therapy, proven effective in multiple clinical trials worldwide. We just need to provide GPs with more information, accessible guidelines and tools, as well as referral and treatment options to help them to help their patients manage insomnia.”

Sally from the UK, said that when unable to sleep, she used to get restless and her mind would race, analysing things, worrying about things, and even worrying about worrying.

“What worked for me with Sleepio was addressing the sleep problem in a really constructive way and doing things in a very kind of digestible form,” she said.

“You also keep a sleep diary, so you can measure your sleep and become more aware of your sleep patterns.”

She used to think she needed nine hours of sleep, but now, through keeping the diary, knows it’s only seven and a half.

“So I don’t panic that I’ve only had seven or six because it’s only an hour or an hour and a half, and I also know that the next night I’m much more likely to go into a deeper, better quality sleep.”

“That is definitely from Sleepio and the knowledge that I’ve gained from it and the skills,” Sally said.

Currently, 45 GPs are taking part in the Australian Sleepio trial, with 200 patients referred to the app to date.

“So far, patients have reported improved insomnia symptoms and around a 40 percent reduction in sleeping pill use,” Sweetman said.

GPs and patients interested in participating in the trial can contact Dr Sweetman at [email protected].
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at [email protected].