The best-kept secret in sleep medicine isn’t some wonder drug, but a pill-free treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which targets the thoughts and behaviors that screw up your slumber (the panicky feeling of being wide awake at 3 A.M., the hours of tossing and turning). According to recent research, CBT-I can be stunningly effective — after at least three sessions, 86 percent of insomniacs showed significant improvement in their sleep. However, there’s one big challenge: About 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, but there are only a few hundred CBT-I practitioners.
To help bridge the gap, the app SleepRate delivers the therapy to your iPhone. The app works with a heart rate monitor, logging your heartbeats as you sleep, while your phone records ambient sounds, such as a snoring spouse or barking dogs. Once the app collects data for five nights of a nine-night stretch, it generates a personalized plan based on science from Stanford University. The suggestions, which can take up to eight weeks to fully implement, might surprise you. If you normally go to bed by 9, for instance, “we could recommend that you don’t get into bed until two to three hours later,” says Britney Blair, who is board certified in behavioral sleep medicine. “If you have trouble falling asleep, we want you to get in bed only when you’re good and sleepy. When patients feel their sleep improving, I often get an ‘Oh, my God!’ response because they can’t believe it’s actually working.”
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