Insomnia-Curbing Apps Are Beginning To Use Actual Cognitive Therapy

Nothing on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only.

Looking for a way to ease your insomnia? There’s an app for that.

A handful of new apps promise to curb these symptoms. These programs utilize physician recommended therapy, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

NPR details the exciting new direction insomnia treating apps are headed. For years, people took matters into their own hands, using meditation apps to ease symptoms. Apps like Sleepio and SHUT-i make Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, previously only available through expensive therapy sessions, accessible for a fraction of the cost.

These apps may be more expensive than those specializing in meditation techniques. Some are covered through employers’ insurance and may only be available through such programs. But this is a definite step toward widespread accessibility of CBT-I for all.

In 2016, the American College of Physicians recommended CBT-I as a key treatment for sufferers.

“The evidence is quite strong to support the effectiveness of CBT-I treatment and there really aren't a lot of side effects,” said According to Associate Professor of Neurology Jason Ong.

woman is laying in the bed happy

CBT-I teaches techniques to promote slumber and change behaviors that inhibit rest. Suggestions may include reminders to spend less time lying awake in bed, nighttime diaries that suggest an optimal bedtime or changing thought habits that prevent relaxation. According to Ong, these methods are similar to those a therapist would use in an actual session with a patient.

“If you modify some of your behaviors, you can work better with how your brain regulates sleep and wake,” Ong says.

A preliminary study indicates users of these apps experience improved rest and relaxation. However, as the director of digital psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center John Torous notes, there are a few caveats. The participants were mostly made up of White women, leaving many demographics untested. Another important fact to note is that Sleepio’s parent company, Big Health, designed and provided funds for the study.

While the facts surrounding this study may seem somewhat disheartening, there are signs that CBT-I and its benefits are only just beginning. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine detailed another study published in SLEEP magazine that looked at the benefits of online CBT-I. Again, participants reported improved rest.

In their published results, researchers indicated that 30 out of 37 participants, or roughly 81 percent, reported improvement ranging from “mild” to “very much improved. One third of participants reported gaining an extra hour every night and most reported a reduction in racing thoughts when they were trying to get their rest. Overall, attitudes towards sleep seemed genuinely improved.

man is adjusting the app for sleep under the bed

The science behind these methods has generally been accepted as more reliable for longterm relief than pills and medications. Severe insomniacs may consider a combination of therapy and medication.

The Mayo Clinic explains some of the benefits of this therapy, saying that it may be a good option, especially if you have lingering concerns about the long-term effects of medication, including possible dependency.

For more information on how a lack of rest can affect the mind, check out our guide on the link between insomnia and mental health. To find out which beds may help combat this issue, read through our guide featuring the best mattresses for insomnia (available here).

Sleep Advisor