Insomnia: GPs invited to sign patients up to therapy program


Monday, 20 June, 2022

Insomnia: GPs invited to sign patients up to therapy program

An app designed to treat insomnia without the use of medication, available in Australia via a Flinders University clinical trial, has received an official recommendation from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The NICE guidelines provide national guidance and advice to improve health and social care in England. The recent NICE report states the app, Sleepio, is a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from insomnia and could reduce the number of prescriptions for medications such as zolpidem and zopiclone, which can become addictive.

Following the news, Dr Alexander Sweetman from Flinders University’s Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health is calling on Australian GPs and people with insomnia to get in touch to learn how the app can be accessed in Australia.

“At present, Sleepio is only available in Australia through a clinical trial, so it’s important doctors are aware it’s an option and patients can be referred to the program and assisted,” Sweetman said.

“Our previous research has shown that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (or ‘CBTi’) is the most effective treatment for insomnia and Sleepio is a self-administered version of that.”

Cognitive behavioural therapy works by targeting the underlying psychological, physiological and behavioural causes of insomnia, in contrast to medications, which simply treat the symptoms.

Through the trial, Sweetman is aiming to develop the pathway within the doctors’ central software program to help GPs identify and refer patients to the specialised digital cognitive behavioural therapy program for insomnia.

“Currently the most common treatment for insomnia in Australia is sedative-hypnotic medications, or sleeping pills, which are potentially addictive and not effective over the long-term,” Sweetman said.

“Instead, we have a treatment with cognitive behavioural therapy, proven effective in multiple clinical trials worldwide — we just need to provide GPs with more information, accessible guidelines and tools, as well as referral and treatment options to help them to help their patients manage insomnia.”

Insomnia is a common and debilitating disorder that can impact a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Symptoms include taking a long time to fall asleep or frequently waking up throughout the night and not feeling rested the following day.

45 GPs are currently participating in the Australian Sleepio trial and have referred 200 patients to Sleepio. The trial will continue offering the app to GPs and patients throughout 2022.

“So far, patients have reported improved insomnia symptoms and around a 40% reduction in sleeping pill use,” Sweetman said.

GPs and patients interested in the trial should contact Dr Alexander Sweetman on alexander.sweetman@flinders.edu.au.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Feodora

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