Enabling better health and self-care at scale with digital sleep medicine

Lead Participant: Big Health Ltd


"The purpose of this Digital Health Catalyst project is to find the best way of providing people who have insomnia (persistent poor sleep) with an alternative to taking sleeping pills. This is important because most people and their doctors would prefer a self-help approach, and a very effective self-help solution exists. It's called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT for short). The problem is that CBT is usually provided by a therapist, and because there are 12 million NHS prescriptions written by doctors each year for insomnia, in person CBT is a huge challenge.

This project aims to close this treatment gap and give people with insomnia immediate access to CBT. This is achievable because 'Sleepio' is a web and mobile 'digital' CBT programme, proven in clinical studies to effectively solve sleep problems and improve day-to-day functioning.

Big Health, the company that developed Sleepio, will work with the NHS through the Oxford Academic Health Sciences Network (AHSN) to discover the best way to make Sleepio available. We will look for examples at how GPs might prescribe Sleepio instead of pills, and ways that people might get more direct access to Sleepio e.g. through a website or through an employee wellbeing scheme. Once we have found the most successful approach, we will develop an 'implementation toolkit', a kind of blueprint plan. This can then be used more widely than can be achieved in this initial demonstration project. There are AHSNs throughout the country, so there is the prospect of them 'adopting' the toolkit in their areas.

At the same time as looking at these practicalities, the project will also be exploring the best approach to 'commissioning'. Commissioning is how the NHS forms agreements about service contracts, and ensures best value for the public money it spends. When it comes to commissioning digital self-help solutions the NHS is entering a relatively new realm. This in fact is one of the reasons that this Digital Catalyst funding has been made available in the first place. Therefore this project will be a world-leading first that will pave the way for the NHS to provide and pay for cost-effective digital solutions such as Sleepio.

Having found methods to introduce a safe and effective digital solution for persistent poor sleep, these same approaches can be used as a foundation to consider how digital CBT could help with other common mental health problems."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Big Health Ltd, London £591,380 £ 413,966


Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £407,013 £ 407,013


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