Insomnia App Could Help You Get More Zzzs

Snores not included

Key Takeaways

  • Somryst is a new app recently approved by the FDA to treat insomnia.
  • The app consists of a six-to-nine-week program that uses sleep restriction and cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Insomnia is a widespread problem that has been growing worse since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Women in bed at night reading smartphone
Benjamin Torode / Getty Images

A new app designed to treat insomnia is the first of its kind to be approved by the FDA.

Called Somryst, the app consists of a six-to-nine-week program that uses sleep restriction and cognitive behavioral therapy to treat chronic insomnia. It’s available by prescription only and costs a hefty $899, but at a time when people are sleeping less than ever, experts say it might be worth a try.

"Somryst helps improve insomnia symptoms," Chris Norris, a certified sleep science coach and editor-in-chief of SleepStandards.com, said in an email interview. "It helps you to train yourself for better sleep. It can possibly be a replacement for other therapies, although I believe it still depends on every individual’s case."

Don’t Sleep Now

The maker of Somryst claims it’s a better way to deliver cognitive-behavioral sleep therapy. "Too few healthcare professionals can deliver the therapy, leaving millions of people in hundreds of places without access," according to the company’s website. "Somryst takes the therapy and delivers it via your smartphone or tablet, giving anyone, anywhere immediate, on-demand access whenever they want it."

After it's prescribed, Somryst instructs users to restrict the period of time when they sleep. They also go through a curriculum with information on stimulus control and how to shift thought patterns that contribute to sleep disruption. The app aims to teach strategies that break the association in the user's brain between bed and wakefulness. It also instructs users on how to "fix the lifestyle and environmental factors that can contribute to sleep disruption," according to the manufacturer’s website. Doctors can keep track of patients’ progress through an online dashboard.

"It can possibly be a replacement for other therapies, although I believe it still depends on every individual’s case."

"We’re excited to offer patients who have been struggling to find a long-term solution for chronic insomnia with a meaningful, first-line treatment," Corey McCann, president and CEO of Pear Therapeutics, said in a statement.

Insomnia is a widespread problem that studies have shown affects up to 30% of people worldwide, according to a report from the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. The effects of insomnia can be more than just red eyes, however, and it’s been linked to depression, impaired work performance, work-related or motor-vehicle accidents, and overall poor quality of life.

More Yawns Worldwide

Insomnia has only worsened since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A study from the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection examined rates of insomnia among adults living in China before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and saw a 37% increase. 

For those hoping to treat their condition, there’s no shortage of gadgets on the market that claim to improve the quality of sleep. Sleepio is a digital sleep improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. The program is delivered via the web and mobile devices, and a virtual sleep expert guides users through six interactive weekly sessions.

Meanwhile, the OmniPEMF offers a more hands-on approach with a headband that creates electromagnetic pulses. The manufacturer claims the technology helps users sleep and relax. 

Man with greying beard sleepless in bed at night using laptop and smartphone
EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS / Getty Images

If zapping your head doesn’t sound relaxing, you might want to try the Intellibed Sleep Genius, a high-tech bed that uses "scientifically-composed music and neurosensory algorithms in sound to create an imbalance in the inner ear that’s 100% natural," according to a company press release. "The synchronized, low-amplitude sounds and vibrations activate the inner ear to naturally mimic the experience of being gently rocked to sleep, so you’ll sleep like a baby."

Colin House, CEO of Intellibed, cast some shade on Somryst in an email interview. 

"The Somryst app seems nicely done and captures all the important CBT elements, which may help with better user adoption," he said. "That said, the app loses its credibility by requiring a prescription from my perspective, as everyone knows that you don’t need a prescription to get the features of the app."

We all need more sleep these days, and if Somryst can be a great way to catch 40 winks, it might be worth stomaching the price.

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