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Thousands in Thames Valley helped by free online support for poor sleep

This Friday (15 March) is World Sleep Day – the perfect day to join the 3,000+ people in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire who have already taken advantage of a new free web-based sleep improvement programme: www.sleepio.com/NHS.

As part of the first NHS rollout of direct-access digital medicine, Sleepio has been available free across the Thames Valley since its launch in October 2018 through a unique partnership between the NHS, employers and Big Health, the company behind Sleepio. The project is funded by Innovate UK and led by the Oxford AHSN.

Sleepio feedback infographicBy the end of February 3,286 people had completed a sleep test at sleepio.com/nhs. This test provides a score based on feedback on sleep quality. Those with less severe sleep disruption are directed to a self-help guide while about a third (1,165) with more deep-seated insomnia have started the CBT-based programme.

The Sleepio package, based on digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), is a proven alternative to sleeping pills and can be accessed without having to see a doctor or pharmacist first.

Difficulty sleeping is the most common mental health complaint in the UK – poor sleep affects one in three adults. Insomnia is a chronic disorder affectign 10-12 per cent of working adults. In the Thames Valley almost half a million prescriptions relating to poor sleep are issued every year at a cost to the NHS of over £1.5 million.

A major study led by the University of Oxford and published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal last September found Sleepio led to improved sleep and, importantly, the knock-on health benefits. It also showed that Sleepio could be effective across a large population.

Professor Colin Espie, Oxford University Professor of Sleep Medicine and Sleepio co-founder, said: “Most people who seek help with insomnia do so because of its negative impact on their daytime quality of life. Sleepio’s new form of ‘digital medicine’ is a powerful way to help thousands of people in the Thames Valley not only get the improved sleep they’re seeking, but also achieve better mental and physical well-being as a result.”

Douglas Findlay, who lives in Reading, has used Sleepio to help him to sleep better. He said: “I was sceptical at first but I discovered it is really user-friendly and has lots of practical advice. It’s easily accessible and you can use it when you need it. It tracks your sleep so you can see the improvement. This project offers the opportunity for many more people to access high quality cognitive behavioural therapy which could result in big benefits for a large population.”

Dr Michael Mulholland, a GP in Buckinghamshire and the project’s clinical lead, said: “I see the impact of insomnia on people’s lives every day. Sleepio offers a real opportunity to transform lives for the better and to reduce reliance on sleeping tablets. This collaboration will explore the potential of digital innovations to improve lives.”

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