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Credit: Dreamstime
Credit: Dreamstime

It is estimated that as many as one American in ten meet the criteria for an insomnia disorder; if effective treatment can be offered in an inexpensive automated form, many more people could be helped.

SHUTi (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet) is an automated online treatment system to help people with insomnia. A recent study claimed that SHUTI offered clinical outcomes that were as good or better than those achieved with a course of personalized treatment by a therapist.

Lee M. Ritterband of the University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of an Internet intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques among 44 adults (average age 44.9) who had a history of sleep difficulties lasting longer than 10 years on average. A total of 22 participants were randomly assigned to a control group and 22 received the Internet intervention, SHUTi.

The highly interactive nine-week program uses text, graphics, animations, vignettes, quizzes and games to present behavioral, educational and cognitive techniques for improving sleep. For instance, patients were advised to avoid reading and watching television in the bedroom, stop daytime napping and change unhelpful beliefs and thoughts (including worries about the consequences of insomnia) that may exacerbate sleep difficulties."

SHUTi is just one of a variety of options that will soon be available to help you work with your own sleep disorder. For example, the Zeo Personal Sleep Coach records your sleep patterns, to help you improve your ability to sleep soundly.

Science fiction fans have been prepared for a future with automated therapy options. In his 1965 book The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, science fiction legend Philip K. Dick refers to a computerized psychiatrist that can be accessed remotely with a special suitcase-sized device.

"Barefoot, he padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile. Meters began to register and the mechanism hummed...

The mechanism ... was the portable extension of Dr. Smile, connected by micro-relay to the computer itself in the basement level of Barney's own conapt building in New York..." (Read more about Dr. Smile)

To learn more, view a short informative video on SHUTi. Source: Internet-Based Intervention May Improve Insomnia (AMA press release).

This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com.