Sleepio - a cure for insomnia?

Image of Dr Simon Kyle
By Dr Simon Kyle

“How do I cure insomnia?”

The odd night of poor sleep can leave you feeling awful the next day, unable to concentrate, and lacking in the energy to carry out normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it isn't until these odd nights turn into bouts of chronic sleeplessness, with frequent next-day impairments, that people tend to begin to seek out a 'cure' for their insomnia.

People complaining of chronic poor sleep are, most often, prescribed sleeping pills by their doctors. In fact, doctors give out around 12 million prescriptions for sleeping pills each year in the UK. Alongside these, are a wide variety of non-prescription, herbal remedies available over-the-counter, in pharmacies, and in health food shops, for example. These sleep aids range from herbal teas, such as chamomile to herbal pills, with ingredients such as Valerian root.

Despite the steady increase in prescriptions for sleeping pills and sales of over-the-counter sleep aids, research has shown that long-term sleep problems are helped most effectively by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT aims to improve insomnia through the targeting and modification of behaviors and cognitions (thoughts) that are presumed to maintain chronic poor sleep. The Sleepio course, which is grounded on scientifically-sound CBT techniques, was shown in trials to reduce, on average, the time taken to fall asleep by 50% and reduce time spent awake during the night by 60%,over a six week period in a group of long-term poor sleepers. Perhaps most importantly, the Sleepio course was also shown to improve how participants felt during the day e.g. in terms of improved energy, mood, concentration and social functioning.

Although CBT for insomnia is not available on the NHS such online programs and other self-help materials are now allowing a wider audience to access such evidence-based therapies, and hopefully help them get to sleep faster and with less worry.

Filed under: Sleep aids