A new artificial intelligence sleep app has been developed that might be able to replace sleeping pills for insomnia sufferers.
Sleepio uses an AI algorithm to provide individuals with tailored cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it would save the NHS money as well as reduce prescriptions of medicines such as zolpidem and zopiclone, which can be dependency forming.
Its economic analysis found healthcare costs were lower after one year of using Sleepio, mostly because of fewer GP appointments and sleeping pills prescribed.
The app provides a digital six-week self-help programme involving a sleep test, weekly interactive CBT-I sessions and keeping a diary about sleeping patterns.
The sessions focus on identifying thoughts, feelings and behaviours that contribute to the symptoms of insomnia. Cognitive interventions aim to improve the way a person thinks about sleep and the behavioural interventions aim to promote a healthy sleep routine.
Nice predicts up to 800,000 people could benefit from using Sleepio in England.
Reduce use of habit-forming drugs
The programme is designed to be completed in six weeks but people have full access to the programme for 12 months from registration.
This allows people to complete the sessions at their own pace and revisit sessions. Participants can also access electronic library articles, online tools and join the online Sleepio user community for support.
A daily sleep diary helps users track their progress and the programme tailors advice to individuals. Users can fill in the diary manually or the data can be automatically uploaded from a compatible wearable tracking device, like an Apple watch or Fitbit.
Clinical evidence presented to Nice’s medical technologies advisory committee from 12 randomised controlled trials showed Sleepio is more effective at reducing insomnia than sleep hygiene and sleeping pills.
Jeanette Kusel, acting director for MedTech and digital at Nice, said until now patients had been offered sleeping pills and taught about sleep hygiene.
She said “rigorous, transparent and evidence-based analysis” had found Sleepio saved the NHS money and reduced reliance on dependence-forming drugs sometimes used to treat the condition.
“This is a good example of where a digital health technology can help the NHS.
“The evidence has shown using Sleepio reduces the number of GP appointments people with insomnia need and will also cut the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills delivered by pharmacists.”
The cost of Sleepio is £45 (excluding VAT) per person.
The independent Nice committee has recommended a medical assessment should be done before referral to Sleepio during pregnancy and in people with multiple conditions.
It has also recommended more research or data collection to show how effective Sleepio is compared with face-to-face CBT-I.