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Sleepio Project

Insomnia affects one in ten adults. Poor sleep has a negative impact on physical and mental health, performance and safety. Sleepio is a digital programme scientifically proven to help overcome poor sleep, based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and backed by extensive gold standard research evidence.

In the six-week programme users learn cognitive techniques to help tackle the so-called ‘racing mind’ – the state in which people find themselves staring at the ceiling late at night, becoming overwhelmed by the thoughts and anxieties circling them as they desperately try to sleep – and behavioural strategies to help reset sleeping patterns naturally, without relying on sleeping pills or other drugs. The evidence indicates that better sleep leads to improved quality of life – in the waking hours as well as during the night.

  • From Oct 2018-March 2021 more than 28,000 people in the Thames Valley completed a Sleepio sleep score test
  • More than 13,000 of these started a personalised online Sleepio CBT programme
  • These people added almost six hours to their weekly sleep total (up 17%)
  • Their use of prescription medication and over-the-counter sleep aids fell by 56%
  • They were 21% less likely to be absent from work due to poor sleep
  • They had a 70% reduction in anxiety symptoms (72% reduction for depression symptoms)

In October 2018 Innovate UK funded a project providing free direct online access to Sleepio to all 2.7 million adults living, working or studying in the Thames Valley (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire). This was the first large-scale NHS rollout of direct access digital medicine, allowing people to access the programme whenever is most convenient for them – without needing a GP referral or prescription. In March 2020 free access to Sleepio was extended to all NHS staff in England as part of a package of health and wellbeing support for key workers.

This initiative was led by the Oxford Oxford AHSN in partnership with Big Health (the company behind Sleepio), major employers, GP surgeries and other primary care professionals. It is supported by NHS England and the NHS Innovation Accelerator. In September 2020 the Oxford AHSN hosted a webinar telling the story of this project.

Dr Charlotte Lee, the former UK Director of Big Health, said: “It’s fantastic that we’re able to provide Sleepio free at the point of access across the Thames Valley. At the heart of this project is the strength of the partnership between the Oxford AHSN and Big Health. This has been key to the project’s success so far.

“They’ve added to our understanding of the local health and care landscape; they’ve opened doors and coached us to build the case for Sleepio. We are extremely grateful for the investment that the Oxford AHSN has given to Big Health and we hope that we’ll be able to continue using Sleepio to improve mental health at scale.”

A research paper was published by BMJ Innovation in May 2020: ‘Determinants of and barriers to adoption of digital therapeutics for mental health at scale in the NHS‘ based on this project and the potential for developing a blueprint for commissioners. A health economic evaluation will be published shortly focusing on how the NHS can expand the provision of digital medicines like Sleepio at scale.

The Oxford AHSN and Big Health published a joint report analysing the Thames Valley project in July 2020. Highlights are featured in the panel above. In addition, results from nine GP surgeries in Buckinghamshire have projected savings of more than £100 for each Sleepio user over three years. The potential savings are £2.3m across the Thames Valley and more than £56m in England as a whole.

In May 2022 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended Sleepio for insomnia.

Read some of the real-life stories behind the figures in these Sleepio case studies