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New Online App Takes on Sleep Deprivation

Because sleep deprivation boosts the risk of chronic diseases, increases mortality, and reduces quality of life and work productivity, investigators conducted a pilot program for ProjectZ — a unique Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) application that can be used to reduce sleep deprivation symptoms.

The new app, which identifies insomnia symptoms, offers a personalized CBT program, and identifies the perpetuating factors operative for a particular user. It was designed by Optisom, LLC. The authors reported their findings in the American Journal of Health Promotion[1].

Sleep deprivation, an epidemic in the United States, increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and cancer, the authors noted. Even modest sleep deprivation has a negative effect on mood, cognitive performance, and motor function.

In the workplace, sleep deprivation often results in difficulty with concentration, problems with organization, impatience with others, avoiding interactions with coworkers, decreased productivity, and absenteeism.

CBT, a multicomponent, nonpharmacological approach to treating causes of sleep deprivation based on behavior modification and cognitive therapy, reduces time to fall asleep and time spent awake during the night. The core elements of CBT for insomnia are stimulus control, sleep compression, relaxation, cognitive therapy, and sleep hygiene.

CBT traditionally has been conducted in person with a qualified provider. With the advent of Internet and mobile technology, CBT is increasingly being delivered online. Other online CBT programs currently available include SHUTi and Sleepio.

In the ProjectZ pilot program, employees were asked to answer a set of 30 to 40 screening questions, many drawn from validated sleep disorder inventories, to assess their Sleep Deprivation Status (SDS). The most common self-reported health conditions were anxiety, hypertension, and depression. The percentages of employees who had at least 1, 2, or 3 significant sleep issues were 75.6%, 50.5%, and 29.7%, respectively. Issues included insomnia symptoms, increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, and restless legs symptoms.

At pre-CBT baseline, close to half of employees who went on to reach the post-CBT assessment were classified as having a “positive” SDS. By post-CBT assessment, the prevalence of sleep deprivation symptoms had been reduced by 74%.

Online CBT represents a potential additional treatment option for patients with chronic insomnia to complement prescription sleep medication.

Last Updated on 9/14/19.

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