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Sleepstation could revolutionise UK sleeping habits

01 May 2014


Millions of insomniacs across the UK could be helped into a better night’s sleep thanks to a new web app devised by one of the UK’s leading sleep experts.

Dr Kirstie Anderson has developed an innovative online app that can also be accessed on a smart phone or tablet, which has the potential to help 80% of the UK’s estimated 3,200,000 insomniacs.

The Newcastle-based sleep expert created the Sleepstation app with help from Teesside University’s DigitalCity.

She said: ‘I’m a neurologist that specialises in sleep disorders, there isn’t a great deal of us that work in sleep medicine. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which many of us will suffer from at some point in our lives.

‘But the people who have chronic insomnia dread climbing the stairs and going to bed. It’s a life-altering condition that has a massive health and wellbeing impact.’

Despite this Dr Anderson says there is a simple way to cure or improve the sleep of 80% of people who suffer from insomnia.

She explains: ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for insomnia programme is a very good simple package with lots of research evidence for benefit.

‘It works at least as well as sleeping tablets, but without any of the side effects, and lasts for longer. Up to 80% of people who receive the treatment see improved sleep following the programme. ‘The problem is there aren’t many practitioners delivering this programme and there is a long waiting list.

‘Most doctors can suggest good sleep hygiene and while that is good advice it is not in itself going to cure insomnia.’

Dr Anderson began looking at digital health applications to see if she could translate the CBT insomnia programme into an effective app.

She was supported in the development of the application by her business partner Alison Gardiner. Alison also owns Born Digital, the company who developed the technology behind the Sleepstation application.

Alison explains ‘DigitalCity at Teesside University was instrumental in assisting us in the early stages of the development of the company Rubrum Limited which owns sleepstation.’

Dr Anderson explains how the app works. She said: ‘We’ve got a great sleep diary; we have a supportive package and screening. Users are taken through interactive video based modules.

‘The key thing about the Sleepstation is that it’s personalised for each user. If you put a particular pattern into your diary it will change the programme to make it fit your sleep pattern.

‘It works very well and 80% of the people who use it end up getting better sleep.

‘There are a lot of online digital health apps out there but a lot of them aren’t very good. For an app to be effective it’s got to be responsive, interactive and it needs to support and screen the people using it.’

In a published trial, 75 insomnia sufferers went through the Sleepstation programme and 80% of those users got significantly better. Some had been suffering from insomnia for many years.

Sleepstation is available at £59 for the app, screening and full programme of support but Dr Anderson has further plans for it.

She said: ‘What I really want to do is to integrate Sleepstation into the NHS and I want to be able to prescribe it to people who are coming into my sleep clinic.

‘There’s a lot of misinformation on sleep apps. Just following good sleep hygiene is good advice – but it doesn’t help chronic sleep issues unlike Sleepstation.

‘Between five to 10% of the population will have chronic insomnia at any stage and it affects other parts of a person’s wellbeing.

‘If you’ve had a first bout of depression one of the most important risk factors for a second bout of depression is ongoing insomnia.

‘The main treatment for insomnia at the moment is sleeping pills, with 10 million people taking then nationally. These pills come with a lot of side effects and little effect on chronic insomnia.

‘Bearing this in mind Sleepstation really could make a massive difference to potentially millions of people’s lives.’

David Jeffries, Head of DigitalCity, said: ‘We were delighted to be able to support Dr Anderson’s Sleepstation with the level of expertise she needed to create an effective, responsive app.

‘DigitalCity is experienced in putting digital experts together with those from different sectors to support them with the skills that they need.’