Student creates app to improve sleep for veterans with PTSD

For some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a basic good night’s sleep can often be elusive. A college student has developed a smartphone and smartwatch application that aims to help veterans by preventing night terrors, which are a major symptom of PTSD.

Tyler Skluzacek, a senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was inspired to create the app due to his personal connection to PTSD. His father, an Iraq veteran, suffers from PTSD and has trouble sleeping due to night terrors which involve screaming, flailing and experiencing fear while sleeping.

Skluzacek and his team won the top prize of $1,500 at HackDC, a computer programming contest in Washington, D.C., in September. They spent 36 hours creating a mobile app for PTSD. The app is called myBivy. It refers to bivouac, a military term for a safe place to sleep such as a temporary camp or shelter.

Using smartphone technology, the app monitors a veteran’s heart rate and movements while they are asleep. It also tracks their sleeping patterns and remains alert for symptoms indicating the onset of panic attacks. The goal of the app is to predict when veterans experience night terrors. It then uses sounds or vibrations to disrupt deep sleep without waking the veteran up, therefore preventing night terrors.

Skluzacek and his team are raising money on Kickstarter to develop the app for wider use across different types of devices. A functional prototype is currently available on the Pebble Time smartwatch and Android smartphone. They plan to start clinical trials in early 2016 and officially launch by May.

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