GPs urged to enroll patients in therapy program

Insomnia: general practitioners invited to enroll their patients in the therapy program

An app designed to treat insomnia without the use of medication, available in Australia through a clinical trial from Flinders University, 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 for improving health and social care in England. The recent NICE report says the app, Sleepio, is a safe and effective treatment for people with insomnia and could reduce the number of prescriptions for drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone, which can be addictive.

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

“At this time Sleepio is only available in Australia through a clinical trial, so it is important that doctors are aware that this is an option and that patients can be referred to the program and supported. “Sweetman said.

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

Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by targeting the underlying psychological, physiological, and behavioral causes of insomnia, unlike medications, which simply treat the symptoms.

Through the trial, Sweetman aims to develop the pathway within the Physician Core software program to help GPs identify and refer patients to the specialized Digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program for insomnia.

“Currently the most common treatment for insomnia in Australia is sedative-hypnotic, or sleeping pills, drugs which are potentially addictive and ineffective in the long term,” Sweetman said.

“Instead, we have treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been proven effective in several clinical trials around the world – we just need to provide GPs with more information, guidelines and accessible tools, as well as referral and treatment options to help them help their patients manage insomnia.”

Insomnia is a common and debilitating disorder that can impact a person’s physical and mental health and well-being. Symptoms include taking a long time to fall asleep or waking up frequently during the night and feeling rested the next day.

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

“So far, patients have reported improvement in insomnia symptoms and about a 40 percent reduction in sleeping pill use,” Sweetman said.

GPs and patients interested in the trial should contact Dr Alexander Sweetman at [email protected]

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

Ryan H. Bowman