Get your sleep back on track

June 1, 2020

Increased anxiety is leading to a sharp increase in the cases of disrupted sleep during the coronavirus crisis. Simon Rushworth talked to Alison Gardiner, founder and CEO of Sleepstation, and discovered how the innovative North East-based service is playing a leading role during lockdown

Anxiety, stress and significant changes to family life and daily routine – the triggers for disruptive sleep have come thick and fast during the coronavirus outbreak.

Coupled with the widespread cancellation of face-to-face GP consultations, those of us experiencing sleepless nights and drowsy days are facing the perfect storm.

Step forward Tyneside-based Sleepstation and an innovative approach to treating sleep disorders compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are actively trying to become part of the solution rather than waiting for someone to give us instructions,” explains Alison Gardiner, founder and CEO of Sleepstation.

“NHS staff and key workers can now access our support team for free. And we’ve also written to GPs to tell them about some of the changes we’ve made.”

As an NHS-approved web-based service, Sleepstation played a pivotal role in providing a medication-free based alternative to achieving better sleep prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, the cancellation of all non-essential face-to-face medical consultations required a shift in focus and an upgrade to a more streamlined service capable of meeting the increasing demands of a society in flux.

“Doctors can now make an informed decision without seeing the patient in the first place and that will improve efficiency all round,” explains Alison.

Given its focus on user-friendly technology and a commitment to building a team of industry experts offering fact-based advice, Sleepstation was always positioned to make a positive difference during a period of crisis.

“Sleep is a massive public health issue,” adds Alison. “The solution for insomnia has been available for more than 30 years. However, there are fewer than ten specialist sleep centres in the UK, even though 30 per cent of the population is affected by sleep problems.”

Alison, who studied psychology at Northumbria University, hatched the idea of Sleepstation after chancing upon a comment on classified ads website Gumtree. A doctor had reached out to the local community seeking to build an app around essential tremors and one key conversation led to another.

“I loved the idea and I said we’d build the app for him for free,” recalls Alison. “During the development he mentioned that his wife was a sleep doctor. We were already trying to persuade people to change their behaviour in all kinds of ways, so why couldn’t we do it with sleep?”

Sleepstation was launched in June 2012 and its first pilot service was commissioned by the NHS later that year. Fast forward to 2020 and more than 30 members of staff operate out of the organisation’s Newcastle and North Tyneside offices.

“Our service has always been underpinned by a good mix of health expertise and technology know- how,” adds Alison.

“In 2015 the NHS introduced the first version of their digital health apps library and we were listed there. We were part of the team advising the NHS how to make these products safe and I sat on the Public Health England steering group for digital health strategy.

“We work with a range of commissioners, offering free access for civil servants and key workers, as well as NHS patients. Our service is also included in many employee wellbeing packages, so we’d encourage anyone struggling to sleep to check with their employer to see if Sleepstation is available to them.”

Sleepstation
For more information on Sleepstation and how its web-based service can help those affected by sleep problems, visit www.sleepstation.org.uk

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