The Science of Sleep @ Google, London

10th December 2015 by Peter Hames

Sleep science Sleepio experts Sleepio news

Russell Foster

Russell Foster’s TED talk, ‘Why do we sleep?’, has received over 5 million hits!

The Sleepio team joined forces with Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, last week, in the latest in a series of events to promote the importance of sleep at Google’s London HQ. Our visit last October revealed on the links between sleep and work performance. This time the focus was the neuroscience of sleep and mental health.

Russell kicked off by establishing why we should care about our sleep health. Considering that we spend a third of our lives in this oh-so-vital state, many of us are guilty of taking it for granted. Russell discussed some of the lesser known short term consequences of sleep loss, including impulsivity and so-called ‘micro-sleeps’ which – though short – can be deadly if you’re behind the wheel. Sleep disruption influences a surprising array of bodily systems and processes, including immune defences, appetite, blood pressure and the metabolic processes which influence our risk of diabetes

How sleep differs from resting

Resting can’t substitute for sleep – it might seem counterintuitive, but the brain doesn’t just take a break once we’ve fallen asleep. The recordings of brain activity shown above reveal that brain is more active in deep, slow wave sleep, than when we’re awake.

As a circadian neuroscientist, Russell has spent many years investigating how light influences our sleep-wake rhythm. His team was behind the discovery of a photoreceptor in the eye which uses light to govern our master body clock. Opthalmologists initially found it hard to believe that light sensors had any functions beyond visual sight, but some ingenious animal studies revealed the critical role of these cells. Without these photoreceptors, mice completely lost their regular sleep and wake cycles – as if they were living in a state of perpetual jetlag.

Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells

Images of Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells, which govern our sleep-wake rhythms in response to light

If science had overlooked these photoreceptors for such a long time, what else might we still be missing? A link between sleep and mental illness?

We know that sleep problems are highly comorbid with several mental health problems such as depression or schizophrenia. For decades, particularly in schizophrenia, sleep disruption has been viewed as a by-product of the medication used to manage the illness. Could it be that the mechanisms in the brain that generate normal sleep and mental health overlap?

Russell made a strong case for this by presenting the results of a recent study in which patients with schizophrenia were treated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). Post-treatment, not only did their sleep improve, but incidences of delusional behaviour were halved.

Dr Sophie Bostock reinforced Russell’s key messages by presenting some of our latest data from the workplace. Our recent trial found that addressing sleep problems with Sleepio, a digital form of CBT-I, also improves measures of emotional wellbeing (such as ability to cope with stress) and productivity at work.

Can it be said that sleep protects against poor mental health? Increasingly compelling evidence points that way, but we’ll keep you posted as the evidence develops.

Sleep(io) more, worry less: results of a randomised trial

2nd March 2015 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

Sleep news Sleepio news Uncategorized

Sleeping in the grass

Photo credit: Barak Shacked

Today marks the start of Sleep Awareness Week in the US, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of sleep.

Looking for a good excuse to prioritise some shut-eye? We’re excited to share the findings of a new Sleepio trial to help patients suffering from anxiety.

A team led by Chris Drake at the Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, randomised 22 adults with insomnia and mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety to either Sleepio (, or a six week sleep education programme, consisting of weekly sleep tips by email.

Anxiety was measured with a questionnaire called the Beck Anxiety Inventory, which asks people how much they’ve been bothered by a wide range of symptoms linked to anxiety. These include feeling nervous or afraid of losing control, and physical symptoms like a racing heart, indigestion, trembling hands or difficulty breathing.

Vivek Pilai, the lead author of the study, reported that after 6 weekly sessions, patients using Sleepio felt significantly less anxious, and had significantly better sleep than the sleep tips group. For example, on average, Sleepio users fell asleep 40 minutes faster at the end of the trial – an improvement ten times greater than the control group!

We recently reported that pioneering UK mental health services have started to offer Sleepio to patients with anxiety and depression.

The take home message for Sleep Awareness Week? The case for sleep as a key driver of positive mental health is growing fast.

Let UP by Jawbone become your personal sleep coach

3rd February 2015 by Peter Hames

Sleep technology Sleepio app Sleepio news

UP Move by Jawbone

Two years ago when Jawbone first opened up its API for UP, Sleepio was honoured to be among the inaugural app integrations featured in the UP App Gallery. Since then, the UP system and platform has continued to evolve, and we are excited to help Jawbone mark a new milestone with the launch of the Jawbone Marketplace.

The Jawbone Marketplace is a curated selection of UP-integrated apps and devices that empower each user to supercharge their progress with tailored experiences and highly personalised coaching. Today, we’re happy to announce Sleepio as one of the first ten best-in-class partners featured in Jawbone’s new online storefront.

Many Jawbone customers have already benefitted from the great pairing that Sleepio and UP make. The integration allows Sleepio to analyse your sleep data from UP and create a hyper-personalised program that helps you identify and address a whole range of factors associated with poor sleep. Because your data from UP is synced automatically with Sleepio, the Sleepio program is up-to-date, easy to follow, and can help you get the best sleep of your life!

How to connect to Sleepio from the Jawbone Marketplace

Visit Sleepio’s page on the Jawbone Marketplace. Once you’ve checked out, you will receive an order confirmation email from Jawbone with a voucher code and instructions to get started. You can then choose to continue your Sleepio journey via the website or, if you’re an iPhone user, in the Sleepio iPhone app!

Sleeping your way to better mental health

29th January 2015 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

Healthcare Sleepio news


Sleeping your way to better mental health

The Sleepio team were invited to Liverpool yesterday to speak at a psychological therapies masterclass. Dr Sophie Bostock presented a case study from Manchester, where Sleepio is being used to help patients with anxiety and depression.

The event was organised to share best practice across Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services in the North West. IAPT is a national NHS programme set up to deliver evidence-based talking therapies to patients with common mental health disorders.

The evidence

Sleep and mental health are intimately linked. We all know that after a sleepless night we can feel a bit tired and irritable, but most of us can bounce back after a good night’s sleep. People who suffer from chronic sleep problems have more difficulty recognising and managing emotions, and are at double the risk of developing depression.

More than 60% of patients who access IAPT services complain of sleep problems. Dr Bostock explained that while insomnia used to be viewed as a symptom or side effect of mental ill-health, the latest research suggests that sleep is an important target for treatment.

For example, patients with a combination of depression and insomnia are less likely to respond to depression treatment, and more likely to relapse. Several recent studies have found that treating sleep problems with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) in patients with depression can lead to better outcomes than CBT for depression alone.

Sleepio in practice

This evidence inspired a partnership between Sleepio and Manchester Self-Help Services eTherapy team. Self-Help Services started to offer Sleepio to patients in March 2014, as an alternative to more established online CBT programmes.

Patients using Sleepio have shown marked improvements in mental health – beating the government’s targets for IAPT services: 64% of patients referred to Sleepio met recovery criteria, compared with a national average of 46%.

Sleepio case study from Manchester IAPT

Manchester Self-Help Services case study: Improvements in mental wellbeing for Sleepio users

Nick Baldwin, eTherapy Co-ordinator for Manchester Self-Help Services, said at the event,

“The feedback from clients has been really positive. Sleepio users are better able to control their sleep, which has benefits for their mood and their motivation to continue therapy.”

Sleepio has already expanded its work with IAPTs from Self-Help Services in Manchester to Think Positive in Bolton, and iCope in Camden and Islington. For more information, please contact

Sleepio shortlisted for design award: Design Museum, here we come!

29th January 2015 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

Sleepio app Sleepio news

Sleepio app shortlisted for AXA Award

We’re delighted to announce that the Sleepio app has been shortlisted for the AXA PPP Health Tech & You Design Awards.

The new awards aim to recognise, celebrate and showcase the best in personal health technology innovations. Over 120 entries were submitted by designers, developers, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals from the UK and around the world.

A prestigious judging panel whittled the entries down to the innovations with potential to have a tangible impact on global health and wellbeing. Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum, noted:

“The digital revolution is breaking down doors in the health industry. We’re about to witness a transformation of the global healthcare industry, led by an independent, consumer-led health tech market.”

Sleepio is a finalist in the ‘Keep Me Healthy’ category, for products which prevent illness and provide tools which make it easier for people to lead an informed, healthier lifestyle.

The Sleepio app delivers a clinically proven sleep improvement programme, but scientists are increasingly showing that the benefits of good sleep go beyond a restful night. We know that insomnia increases the risks of developing depression, hypertension and diabetes, for example, and we’re really excited about our research into the longer term health benefits of Sleepio.

Other nominated apps include an injury detection suit for disabled athletes with loss of sensation, enabling them to see injuries when they happen, and a mobile app aimed at young parents and parents-to-be providing, personalised content approved by doctors and midwives from pregnancy through to the first six months after birth.

Sleepio and the other shortlisted entries will be showcased in a public exhibition at the Design Museum in London from 10th March to 26th April. The Prof will put on his best dressing gown.. We hope to see you there!

The era of digital medicine: breaking the barrier

26th November 2014 by Peter Hames

Healthcare Sleep news Sleep science Sleep technology Sleepio news

Digital medicine: Sleepio app

We live in a world where a trip to our GP often results in leaving with a prescription in hand. Although drugs are essential to the health of many people, we now have decades of clinical evidence that suggests behavioural treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is a more effective long-term solution for conditions such as depression and insomnia. And yet, only a fraction of these patients have access to non-pharmaceutical medicine.

However this may be about to change. Writing in PharmaTimes this week, Big Health co-founder Peter Hames gives his perspective on what he describes as a ‘revolution in healthcare’. For the first time we are able to create digital health interventions, accessed via web and mobile technologies. The benefits of GP’s prescribing digital medicine could be huge – reduced cost and strain on healthcare systems, help for patients to manage their conditions, improved patient outcomes and increased patient satisfaction.

So why is this vision still a virtual one? Doctor’s are rightly hesitant to recommend health apps to patients until clinically proven to be effective, yet apps need to be piloted in practice to gather the necessary evidence. Concerns have been raised about the privacy of medical data but healthcare settings are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, from appointment booking to medical records, and robust safeguards are commonplace. Earlier this month, NHS England committed to launching a “kitemark” system in 2015 to help patients access trusted apps. It seems the door is opening to a new era of digital medicine.

The bright side of the end of Summer: clock change advice

24th October 2014 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

Sleep news

British summertime clock change

Photo credit: gnomonic

Early on Sunday morning, clocks across the UK will be rolled back an hour, marking the end of the summer’s Daylight Saving Time (DST). You can check your local clock change time and date here.

So should we be despairing at the darker winter mornings, or revelling in the extra hour in bed?

Why do we change the clocks?
The idea was first proposed in Britain in 1907 by a keen horse-rider, William Willett, who was incensed at the waste of useful daylight on summer mornings. The government finally introduced a Daylight Saving Time scheme in 1916, a few weeks after Germany. It was felt that any system that could save fuel and money during the First World War was worth a try.

What does it mean for our sleep?
The clock change means an abrupt shift in the external cues which help our internal body clock to maintain a 24-hour circadian rhythm track. These external time cues are called ‘zeitgebers’, and include light, temperature, exercise and food/drink intake.

It can take several days for our internal biological clock to re-synchronise with a new schedule, whether it’s a clock change or a timezone difference. For some people, this desynchrony leads to disrupted sleep, and feeling tired during the day.

A misalignment between external cues and our internal body clock can also have more serious consequences. For example, there is a spike in the risk of heart attacks spikes on Monday mornings. This is thought to be due to a combination of the stress of a new working week and sudden changes in our sleep-wake cycle. By studying the rates of heart attacks over four years, US researchers showed a 25% increase on the Monday following the shift to DST in Spring when clocks were rolled forwards, reducing our sleep. Conversely – and positively for next week – there was a 21% decrease in heart attacks when the clocks were rolled back in the Autumn.

How can we re-establish our sleep-wake cycles following the clock change?

  • Get up at the same time in the morning each day – which means enjoying an extra hour in bed this weekend. It may still take take a few days to adjust to the new schedule, but routine is key for creating a consistent drive to sleep each evening.
  • In the winter, with fewer hours of daylight overall, it’s important to seek out exposure to morning light where you can. Light is a strong cue to alert the internal clock, and daylight ensures it remains synchronised to the 24-hour day. Lack of light exposure during the day can result in a drift of the internal body clock, making it harder to get up in the morning in the winter.
  • Avoid bright lights for at least an hour before bed. Bright light inhibits the production of melatonin (a hormone involved in the timing and regulation of sleep) which can leave us feeling more alert. Minimise your use of electronic gadgets for at least an hour before you go to bed to give yourself time to wind down.

Sleepio shares the secrets of good sleep at Google

10th October 2014 by Dr. Sophie Bostock

How to sleep better Sleep science Sleep technology Sleepio at Work Sleepio news


The Sleepio team took part in an event at Google’s London offices this week to raise awareness of the importance of good sleep for a happy and productive workforce. Sleepio’s sleep experts donned their very best pyjamas to take to the stage!

Sleep researcher, Dr Sophie Bostock, explained that poor sleep can interfere with a wide range of desirable work behaviours, from empathising to ethical decision-making. Poor sleep interferes with concentration and accuracy, which can have serious consequences for safety and productivity.

Prof Colin Espie explained why a racing mind can keep insomnia sufferers awake at night. With the help of some audience participation – which included throwing money into the audience – he illustrated some of the core principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia. These included learning to value relaxation time, trusting that sleep will come, and putting the day to rest before settling down to sleep.

Co-founder, Peter Hames, described his own experience of insomnia and how successful treatment with CBT inspired him to create Sleepio. His perspective is that technology offers a, scalable, standardised, affordable and evidence-based way to deliver treatment to those who need it.

In the US, the annual cost of insomnia to employers due to lost productivity alone has been estimated at over $60 billion per year – equivalent to 7.8 lost working days per poor sleeper, per year. Given that 1 in 4 employees report poor sleep, it’s an issue that we expect will increasingly feature on the corporate wellness agenda.

Sleepio app launches for iPhone

18th September 2014 by Peter Hames

Sleep technology Sleepio app Sleepio news

Sleepio app iOS8

The future is an exciting place. Of course we’ll all have hoverboards and X-Ray specs, but more importantly our phones will become powerful tools to keep us healthy and happy.

Today marks a small step in that direction: the new Sleepio iPhone app is now available to download from the App Store!

Our new iPhone app allows you to complete the full Sleepio CBT sleep improvement program, presented by your virtual sleep expert The Prof and proven to help you make the changes necessary to overcome even long term poor sleep.

By connecting your Jawbone UP account to Sleepio you can pull in your sleep data from your UP tracker or Android Wear devices to automatically personalize your sleep improvement program to your problems and progress.

On top of this, you can now get instant, bitesized help from The Prof whenever you need it, with our new ‘Help Me Now’ feature. Whether you’re having a tough morning or you’re struggling to get to sleep at night, The Prof will be there to help you get back on track.

The Sleepio app is available from the Apple App Store from today – download it and let us know what you think!

Download the Sleepio app

Big Health at TechCrunch Disrupt SF

8th September 2014 by Peter Hames

Sleepio news Sleepio press


TechCrunch Disrupt is one of the most anticipated technology conferences of the year. Launching in San Francisco today TechCrunch will be bringing Disrupt back to San Francisco to reveal an all new slate of outstanding startups, influential speakers, guests and more to the stage. Attendees will debate the newest trends in technology, what’s causing them and how to thrive in 2015 and beyond.

On Wednesday our founder Peter will be discussing the topic ‘Digital Medicine is the New Rx’. Joining Peter on the panel will be Matthew Cooper of Carmenta Bioscience and Glen Tullman of 7wire Ventures – great company indeed!

We are big believers in the potential of digital medicine to transform healthcare, and this promises to be an exciting discussion. If you can’t be there and want to catch the talk you can view the livestream on Wednesday, September 10 at 11:45am PST, 7:45pm BST: