UK startup Big Health today launched a smartphone app called Sleepio - one of the first apps to be integrated with Apple's new health APIs. 

Sleepio, available in the App Store from today, is designed to help people to get to sleep by providing them with on-the-spot Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). 

The app, created by world sleep expert Professor Colin Espie from Oxford University and ex-insomnia sufferer Peter Hames, has been integrated with Apple’s new HealthKit

On the Apple Developer Library, Apple describes its HealthKit as a new framework for managing a user’s health-related information.

"With the proliferation of apps and devices for tracking health and fitness information, it's difficult for users to get a clear picture of how they are doing," the company tells developers.

"HealthKit makes it easy for apps to share health-related information, whether that information comes from devices connected to an iOS device or is entered manually by the user. The user’s health information is stored in a centralised and secure location. The user can then see all of that data displayed in the Health app.

"When your app implements support for HealthKit, it gets access to health-related information for the user and can provide information about the user, without needing to implement support for specific fitness-tracking devices. The user decides which data should be shared with your app.

"Once data is shared with your app, your app can register to be notified when that data changes; you have fine-grained control over when your app is notified. For example, request that your app be notified whenever users takes their blood pressure, or be notified only when a measurement shows that the user’s blood pressure is too high."

Sleepio imports sleep data from fitness tracking devices such as the Jawbone UP or HealthKit in iOS 8 to provide users with an overview of their sleep profile. This data, with user permission, is used to create a personalised sleep programme that is designed to help promote better thoughts and behaviours.

The programme is delivered to the user by a virtual animated sleep expert known as "The Prof" and his narcoleptic dog "Pavlov". According to Big Health, The Prof is there whenever you need him and a “Help Me Now” feature provides moment-by-moment help for those who are struggling to get to sleep. 

"Millions of people experience sleep problems – whether that’s falling asleep, staying asleep or with the quality of their sleep," said Espie. "Sleepio is a ground-breaking, clinically-proven digital sleep improvement programme that uses proven CBT techniques to help users with persistent sleep problems."

In a clinical trial, the course featured in the Sleepio app was shown to be comparable in effect to face-to-face therapy, on average helping long-term poor sleepers:

  • Fall asleep 56 percent faster;
  • Reduce night-time awakenings by 63 percent; and
  • Boost daytime energy and concentration by 58 percent.

Free to download from the App Store, the app includes seven days free access after which users with a long term sleep problem can get unlimited access to the full CBT programme plus Help Me Now for £99.99 for 12 weeks. For those with short term sleep problems, one month’s access to the Help Me Now feature is available for £2.99. 

Tech investors appear to be keen on Sleepio and other apps that Big Health is working on. Indeed, a total of $3.3 million (£2.02 million) was invested in the company earlier this year when it was backed by Index Ventures, Forward Partners and several Angel investors, including Esther Dyson, Rob Taylor and Peter Read. 

Update: Apple found a bug in its HealthKit platform that prevented Sleepio from launching its intended app. However, Big Health has informed Techworld that a non-HealthKit-compatible version of the app can still be downloaded. 

Image credit: Big Health

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