Each year, 1.3 million people in the U.S only are diagnosed with nightmare disorders. These are not just bad dreams. Their intensity and frequency can disrupt sleep and lead to severe consequences for a person’s life. Nightmare disorders are often caused by traumatic events and are among the clinical symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).
Tyler Skluzacek, the son of an Iraq war veteran struggling with nightmares, developed a platform to help. The device has just been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a “therapeutic device” to deal with parasomnia. Using an application running on an Apple watch, NightWare uses proprietary algorithms to improve patients’ sleep quality with nightmare disorders.
A company on a mission to ease your nights
The Minneapolis based company may well be a game-changer. After receiving the “breakthrough status” designation by the FDA, the company ranked #3 on The Observer list of Top Digital Health Firms. The breakthrough status is only granted to technologies that “demonstrate substantial improvement on a clinically significant endpoint over available therapies.”
NightWare is not just a simple app. It is a real medical technology. Hence, the regulatory steps are needed before the use of the platform to treat patients. After completing additional clinical studies, the platform will be available by prescription only and free of charge to Veterans through the Veterans Administration and the US Department of Defense health plans. To date, NightWare does not plan to distribute this very specialized application to the public.
The technology was developed by the son of a veteran to help his das sleeps better. Despite the multiple awards and recognition of the platform’s value to treat parasomnia, the company’s first goal is to help veterans suffering from PTSD. To this end, they work closely with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) health care system and the Department of Defense Military Health System (MHS).
NightWare: What is the science behind?
Using NightWare to ease your nights is a two steps process. It just starts by wearing an Apple Watch while sleeping. During the first couple of nights, the smartwatch will learn how you sleep and the intensity of the sleep disturbances. The data will be sent to Nightware’s servers and processed using a proprietary algorithm making the most of machine learning technologies.
The data are processed to define a personalized sleep disturbance profile by tracking your heart rate, movements, and other biometric information. The learning period will typically be less than ten days. Once a nightmare is detected during the sleep phase, the watch will vibrate just enough to arouse the individual without actually waking him up.
By continuously collecting biometric data and updating a Smart Sleep Index, NightWare will fine tune the sleep model and vibration pattern. The vibration’s intensity will gradually be increased to arouse the sleeper but not to disrupt the sleep cycle. Awakening for 10 seconds is enough to stop the nightmare episode without disruption the sleep architecture.
The company conducted a clinical studies on 70 veterans suffering from PTSD in partnership with the Minneapolis VA Medical Center
The data captures are stored on a cloud server. Both the user and the clinicians will have access to them to check the efficacy of the treatment. To our knowledge, NigthWare is the first therapeutically significant use of a smartwatch.
Can smart devices really provide a better’s night sleep?
Smart devices are part of our daily life and are gradually entering our bedrooms as well. Smartwatches, of course, monitor our vitals and stress levels continuously. We spend one-third of our life sleeping. It is then critically important not only to live a better life but also to enjoy a night of better sleep.
Smart pillows, such as the Zeeq smart pillow, will monitor our heart rate and movements and listen to our snores and vibrate in case one is detected. NightWare goes one step further and provides not a simple consumer application for wearables but offers a complete therapeutic platform.
The Withings Sleep Tracking Mat is also capable of collecting numerous data while we sleep. One question that remains is to know if smartwatches are the best device to record data at night. Wearing them while sleeping can be uncomfortable and impact the quality of our sleep.
One open question is to know if the platform developed by NightWare could be adapted to less intrusive devices. We do not have the answer, but the future of sleep will most certainly be quantified.