A New Digital Therapeutic for Chronic Insomnia

November 18, 2020
Paul Gleason, PhD

Potential relief for millions of Americans with pandemic-related sleep issues.

Pear Therapeutics has announced the availability of Somryst, the only US Food and Drug Administration-authorized digital therapeutic for chronic insomnia to date. (Read Psychiatric TimesTM previous coverage of Somryst, and watch a video with Yuri Maricich, MD, chief medical officer at Pear Therapeutics.)

“We’re excited to offer patients who have been struggling to find a long-term solution for chronic insomnia with a meaningful, first-line treatment,” Corey McCann, president and chief executive officer of Pear Therapeutics, said in a statement.

A prescription digital therapeutic (PDT), Somryst offers 6 to 9 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) via a tablet or smartphone. Clinical studies on the efficacy of this therapeutic have appeared in JAMA Psychiatry1, Lancet Psychiatry2, and BJ Psych Open.3 The prescription reduced the time needed to fall asleep by 45%, time spent awake during the night by 52%, and the severity of insomnia symptoms by 45%. Improvement continued 6 and 12 months after treatment.

At present 30 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia, but McCann noted that treatment options are especially “important now, more than ever, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Indeed, sleep disorders have soared during the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents to a Pear Therapeutics survey reported pandemic-related sleep loss. The number reporting poor sleep almost doubled (from 15% to 27%), and younger generations have been especially affected, with nearly one-third of Gen Z and Millennials admitting to poor sleep quality.

Digital prescriptions may be good options for patients who cannot access a clinician. “Despite CBTi being the recommended first line treatment for chronic insomnia, there aren’t enough clinicians who are trained to deliver CBTi therapy,” Michelle Primeau, MD, medical director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Sleep Medicine Center in San Carlos, CA, told the press. “Somryst has been shown to address the underlying issues of chronic insomnia by training the brain and body to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.”

Are your patients experiencing increased insomnia? Share comments with your colleagues by emailing PTEditor@mmhgroup.com. Comments may be shared online pending review and may be edited for style.

References

1. Ritterband LM, Thorndike FP, Ingersoll KS, et al. Effect of a web-based cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia intervention with 1-year follow-up: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(1):68–75.

2. Christensen H, Batterham PJ, Gosling JA, et al. Effectiveness of an online insomnia program (SHUTi) for prevention of depressive episodes (the GoodNight Study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Psychiatry.2016;3:333–41.

3. Batterham P, Christensen H, Mackinnon A, et al. Trajectories of change and long-term outcomes in a randomized controlled trial of internet-based insomnia treatment to prevent depression. BJPsych Open. 2017; 3(5), 228-235.