JAMA study: Big Health's CBT app improves conditions of users with insomnia symptoms

Among a study group of 1,711 users, use of the Sleepio app appeared to drive improvements in self-reported functional health, psychological wellbeing, and sleep-related quality of life.
By Dave Muoio
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What happened

A new dual-arm randomized trial published this morning in JAMA Psychiatry found that use of Big Health’s Sleepio app as a digital cognitive behavioral therapy (dCBT) led to significant improvements in self-reported functional health, psychological wellbeing, and sleep-related quality of life among those with symptoms to insomnia.

The trial, which included 1,711 participants recruited through social media, compared use of the app against standard sleep hygiene education at midtreatment (four weeks), post treatment (eight weeks) and follow up (24 weeks). Each of the primary outcomes were measured using standardized screens for patient-generated outcome ratings.

Of note, 80.8 percent of the 853 randomized to the Sleepio app group logged on for at least one session, and 48.4 percent completed all six of their dCBT sessions. The study also found significant differences from app program use in secondary outcomes including symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleepiness, and cognitive failures.

Why it matters

In the study, researchers noted that insomnia disorder presents in roughly 10 to 12 percent of adults, and is associated with other health disorders and reduced quality of life. While CBT is already a recommended intervention, data supporting dCBT — which is easier and highly scalable — is available but less prevalent.

What is the trend

dCBT apps and programs have been made for a number of conditions outside of insomnia, including OCD, anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Big Health, for its part, raised $12 million last year for its Sleepio app, and has made deals with employers and other platforms to supply its digital service.

On the record

“These findings indicate that dCBT improves both daytime and nighttime aspects of insomnia, lending further weight to the clinical guideline recommendation of CBT as the treatment of choice for insomnia,” the researchers concluded.