Insomnia affects one in ten adults. Sleepio is a digital programme scientifically proven to help overcome poor sleep, based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and backed by extensive gold standard research evidence and a specific evidence summary from NICE.
In the six-week programme users learn cognitive techniques to help tackle the so-called ‘racing mind’ – the state in which people find themselves staring at the ceiling late at night, becoming overwhelmed by the thoughts and anxieties circling them as they desperately try to sleep – and behavioural strategies to help reset sleeping patterns naturally, without relying on sleeping pills or other drugs. The evidence indicates that better sleep leads to improved quality of life – in the waking hours as well as during the night.
Innovate UK is funding a project providing free direct access to Sleepio to all 2.7 million adults living in the Thames Valley (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire) from October 2018 until June 2020. This is the first large-scale NHS rollout of direct access digital medicine. This means people can access the programme whenever they like without needing a GP referral or prescription.
This initiative is being led by the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN) in partnership with Big Health (the company behind Sleepio), major employers, GP surgeries and other primary care professionals. It is supported by NHS England and the NHS Innovation Accelerator.
Dr Charlotte Lee, Big Health’s UK Director, said: “It’s fantastic that we’re able to provide Sleepio free at the point of access across the Thames Valley. At the heart of this project is the strength of the partnership between the Oxford AHSN and Big Health. This has been key to the project’s success so far.
“They’ve added to our understanding of the local health and care landscape; they’ve opened doors and coached us to build the case for Sleepio. We are extremely grateful for the investment that the Oxford AHSN has given to Big Health and we hope that we’ll be able to continue using Sleepio to improve mental health at scale.”
A health economic evaluation will be conducted at the end of the 18-month trial focusing on how the NHS can expand the provision of digital medicines like Sleepio at scale.
The Oxford AHSN Sleepio project seeks to engage with large local employers, promoting Sleepio to their workforces. Nine GP surgeries in Buckinghamshire (with a combined total of 120,000 registered patients) have been recruited to the project to offer Sleepio directly to patients who would otherwise be offered medication only.
A free weblink for Thames Valley residents (www.sleepio.com/nhs) was launched on 10 October 2018 (World Mental Health Day). By March 2020, 14,500 people in this region had completed a five-minute Sleepio sleep score test with nearly 5,000 going on to start a personalised online CBT programme. These people slept an extra 5.5 hours per week on average. Other benefits included reduced stress, less use of sleep remedies, improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.
In March 2020 access to Sleepio was made free to all NHS staff as part of a package of health and wellbeing support for key workers.