Those suffering with sleep disorders such as insomnia are often prescribed a pill of some sort to assist them with the problem, but some experts say that these pills are not the best solution. People who repeatedly toss and turn as they try to fall asleep for hours or who wake up feeling tired every morning may want to consider a solution that is a bit off the beaten path: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI), now offered via the new SleepRate app for the smartphone.
Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggest that CBTI is the “gold standard” of treatment for sleep disorders like insomnia. Rather than offering a quick solution, CBTI involves changing a person’s habits that may be contributing to poor, or a lack of, sleep.
CBTI may initially be combined with the use of sleeping pills in order to get the exhausted individual back to a baseline level of feeling rested. Used long-term, however, sleeping pills may lose some of their effectiveness or result in dependency. Thus CBTI’s focus is on helping those suffering with sleep disorders to recover long-term. It is known to take at least four to six weeks for the therapy to have an impact on a person’s sleep.
Unfortunately, practitioners of CBTI may be hard to come by and the therapy can involve extensive interviews, overnight sleep clinic stays, and regular therapy appointments, making it difficult to work into the busy lives of many that suffer with sleep disorders. Now though, a group of researchers in Israel says they have developed a way to make the recommended therapy solution more accessible to anyone with a smartphone, the SleepRate app.
The SleepRate app can be downloaded for the price of $99 and comes with a few accessories, a sleep plan and a chest belt intended to monitor heart rate, to assist the sleep-disordered in their quest for a good night’s rest. Users spend five nights sleeping with the belt around their chests and the app activated while also recording subjective information about their sleep environments. Creators of the app explain that it “can detect sleep disturbances by mathematically defining the connection between sleep, heart rate and respiration” through the use of a patented formula. After the initial five days, users are provided with a customized sleep plan based on the results that incorporates the principles of CBTI. SleepRate reports an 85% success rate among its insomniac users.
Like CBTI, SleepRate’s recommended sleep plans include advice as to how to clear the mind in preparation for bedtime through the use of personalized relaxation exercises and the avoidance of stimulating activities.The app also assists users with avoiding behaviors that may cause sleep disturbances, such as telling them to avoid a nap if it appears that they may be about to indulge in a little afternoon rest.
While other smartphone apps have attempted to integrate CBTI principles to assist with sleep disorders, at least one sleep specialist believes that SleepRate is unique because it takes into account the possibility of medical issues affecting sleep, such as sleep apnea. She says that SleepRate is a tool that could serve as a relatively unobtrusive starting point for people who need to get better sleep and recommends that if it is not effective in helping someone meet their sleep goals, they should seek additional treatment from a specialist to help them get some much-needed rest.
By Michele Wessel