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Don't worry be appy with new tools that can help your sleep

New research reveals a digital aid not only treats insomnia, but can lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Katie Wright looks at the app choices

Published 03/09/2016

Happy snoozing: the benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing from a good sleep have been clinically proven
Happy snoozing: the benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing from a good sleep have been clinically proven

Thousands of apps claim to have a transformative effect on our lives, but few have data like this to back up their assertions: a study published in the Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy Journal has found that 68% of patients suffering mild or moderate depression and anxiety moved towards recovery after using insomnia treatment app Sleepio.

The research was conducted by NHS service Self Help Manchester, where the digital cognitive behavioural therapy programme was administered to 98 patients, with six support calls coming from an eTherapy co-ordinator.

Assessments showed that symptoms of depression and anxiety were reduced following the six-week course - on average, 60% to 70% of sufferers also experience insomnia - and the 68% recovery rate outstripped the NHS average of 45%.

"Sleepio empowers patients to overcome their poor sleep by providing personalised, evidence-based CBT techniques and support," explains Peter Hames, NHS Innovation Fellow and co-founder of Big Health, which makes the app.

"While the link between insomnia and depression and anxiety is well documented, it's incredible to see a digital solution designed to manage insomnia having such a marked effect on patients' anxiety and depression symptoms too. These results raise the exciting prospect of using sleep as a de-stigmatised 'way in' to help the millions with anxiety and depression who don't currently seek help."

Whether you want to improve your mental health or just your sleep patterns, there are lots of apps to choose from.

The most well-known, Sleep Cycle, sits on your mattress and monitors your slumber, providing graphs on how you progressed through the stages of sleep (or not, on restless nights) and choosing the best time to wake you up to avoid that groggy feeling, but it doesn't actually offer ways to get more shut-eye.

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson is based on the expert's workshops and bestselling downloads and uses guided meditation and relaxation techniques.

In a similar vein, Relax & Sleep Well is a free app from hypnotherapist Glenn Harrold which comes with three hypnosis tracks and access to another 80 purchasable tracks, while self-improvement platform Remente features a 'Sleep Academy' course so you can train yourself to drift off more quickly.

If you're sensitive to intrusive noise at night, there are numerous white noise-generating apps like Relax Melodies or Pzizz, which generates different soothing sounds each time so your mind can't get used to them.

The almost ungoogleable Sleep (find it by searching Sleep Sounds and Spa Music) has a soundboard of 100 tracks - things like crashing waves and chirping crickets - which you can mix and save to play later.

Sleep Genius, on the other hand, thinks white noise won't help, and is based on research by NASA to help astronauts get to sleep, employing 'pink noise' and three other components to send you off to the land of nod.

Whatever you choose, the benefits to our physical and mental health of catching more Z's are clear - with the right app, your deep sleep could bring you deep joy.

Belfast Telegraph

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