WSU Spokane Researcher To Test New Sleep App For Insomniacs

Jan 29, 2018

This is a new device that WSU and UW researchers will test as a potential remedy for people with insomnia.
Credit ResMed

Portable devices that monitor different aspects of our health are becoming more common. We can measure how our bodies perform as we live our daily lives. And now new sensors have been devised to monitor how we function when we sleep.

Washington State University Spokane researcher Devon Grant is testing the effectiveness of one of these new devices for insomniacs.

She’s a post-doctoral research fellow in the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center in Spokane.

“There’s really fantastic treatment out there, but it’s not easily accessible to everyone,” Grant said.

Perhaps that will change soon. Grant says there are new portable technologies on the market that claim to help people measure their sleep. No more nights in faraway sleep centers with all kinds of wires connected to your body. But how these new devices perform isn’t clear. So Grant is joining colleagues at WSU and the University of Washington to test a new sensor whose brand name is S+. You can find it in stores and online.

“It’s, you know, shoebox size, I would say kind of a longer rectangle. It just sits on your bedside table and emits kind of a low radio frequency and it monitors your sleep,” Grant said.

The device sends an array of information to an app that you download on your phone. How long did it take you to fall asleep? What stages of sleep did you experience? Did you have interruptions?

“It also has this integrated coaching feature called the S+ mentor system," Grant said. "So what we’re going to be looking at in this study is, first off, does this device monitor sleep well in insomniacs and then, secondly, does the coaching feature, which provides feedback to the individual every day, does it help improve sleep in a similar manner to these tried-and-true behavioral treatments that are out there?”

It’s a two-month study. Grant and her colleagues will recruit 90 adults with chronic insomnia, both in Spokane and Seattle, and 30 people who don’t have trouble falling asleep. The first task is to compare how well S+ monitors sleep compared to a wristwatch-like technology called actigraphy that’s been used for years. The participants will be divided into three groups. All will use S+. A third will supplement the information they receive with coaching provided by S+, a third will get traditional online sleep coaching and a third will get no coaching.

“Our goal is to determine is that coaching feature integrated into this device gives comparable results to cognitive behavioral therapy, which we know is a very well-established, very effective treatment,” Grant said.

Grant says the researchers hope to determine whether S+ is a reliable tool they can use in future studies. She says the study organizers expect to begin recruiting participants in the late spring.