Combining digital and IAPT therapy can improve sleep, anxiety and depression

A study by Oxford Health NHS foundation trust and digital therapeutics company Big Health has shown that combining NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) care with Sleepio, a digital therapy for insomnia, has a positive impact on the mental health of patients experiencing sleep difficulty.

Combining digital and IAPT therapy can improve sleep, anxiety and depression

Almost two thirds of people seeking treatment treating for anxiety and depression who also reported sleep difficulty found their mental health improved when they used Sleepio alongside therapy compared to patients receiving IAPT care alone. Study participants also reported needing less in-person therapy when using Sleepio.

Researchers working on the study tracked more that 1,000 IAPT patients who had both sleep and mental health issues.  Half were enrolled in Sleepio alongside in-person therapy and the other half did not access Sleepio as part of their treatment. After a year Sleepio users reported better outcomes in mood, anxiety and social functioning.

The study was a key part of a wider population mental health programme enabling any adult in the Thames Valley to access Sleepio through self-referral, GP prescription, and mental health services. It was funded by a UK Research and Innovation grant, delivered with the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, and was hosted by Healthy Minds Bucks, the Buckinghamshire, England IAPT service.

Dr. John Pimm, Clinical lead of Healthy Minds Bucks, the Buckinghamshire IAPT service, provided by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We are proud to collaborate with Big Health on this innovative study, which shows the opportunity to further improve clinical outcomes through integration of a digital therapeutic for insomnia and evidence based psychological therapy for anxiety and depression. Recovery rates for people with anxiety and depression receiving IAPT care in England are already good, however we have found that we can improve them further with this additional digital intervention. Reflecting on the pandemic, increasingly we’ll need more scalable, evidenced digital interventions to augment our services, making care more efficient and effective.”

Dr. Colin Espie, Big Health Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, and Professor of Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford said:

“This study represents Big Health’s unique ability to reach users across the clinical care pathway. By supplementingexisting clinical care with access to personalised and evidenced-based digital therapeutics, we can reach people with the right approach and at the right time to maximise outcomes.”

Read the full paper in Behaviour Research and Therapy here.

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Published: 7 September 2021