People using the online sleep improvement programme Sleepio gained wide-ranging benefits from the six-week programme, according to a new report. The study found they slept longer, spent less on sleeping pills, enjoyed better mental health and had fewer sick days.

A new joint report from the Oxford Academic Health Science Network and Big Health, the company behind Sleepio, finds people using the program:

  • slept longer – an average of almost six hours extra per week (17% increase)
  • reduced their use of prescription medication and over-the-counter sleep aids by 56%
  • were 21% less likely to be absent from work due to poor sleep
  • had a 70% reduction in anxiety symptoms (72% reduction for depression symptoms).

The findings are based on feedback from more than 7,000 people who started a Sleepio online programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia. They were among more than 16,000 who completed an initial Sleepio sleep score test through the initiative coordinated by the Oxford Academic Health Science Network. The participants signed up to the study after the NHS clinical commissioning groups in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, east Berkshire and Milton Keynes decided to make Sleepio free to test how its results compared with those seen by IAPT services.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has promoted Sleepio to staff as self-care tool, and to patients as a prescribed app through the TalkingSpace Plus and Healthy Minds talking therapy services. 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.

Clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend CBT as the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia – but it is not always available due to a shortage of trained therapists.

Tracey Marriott, Director of Clinical Innovation Adoption at the Oxford AHSN, said: “This experiment has demonstrated that digital CBT treatments can be effective and beneficial for patients.

“The fact that 7,000 people signed up to this study shows that there is an appetite for online therapy. It gives patients and clinicians another option other than medication and, given Covid-19, it is a convenient digital method that could be accessed by many from the safety and comfort of their own homes.”

Dr John Pimm, Clinical and Professional Lead, Buckinghamshire Psychological Therapies Pathway, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “These results highlight the impact that is made possible through collaborative partnerships across primary care and mental health. Digital therapeutics like Sleepio offer an exciting opportunity to provide both improved patient outcomes and economic benefits to the wider healthcare system.”

See the full report

See more about the Sleepio project