Researchers at the University of Kentucky are the first in the country to study whether an app for insomnia could help stop the rise in alcohol abuse.
"If we can use this intervention in this population, who also tend to have a lot of sleep issues and knock out two public health problems at once, then we really feel like we can be doing a lot of good," said Mairead Moloney, a researcher at the University of Kentucky.
The app is called Sleep Healthy Using the Internet or Shut-I. Past studies have shown it works well for improving people's sleep.
This new study is unique because it also looks at the effects on heavy drinkers.
"Shut-I is actually decreasing alcohol consumption in these individuals which is noteworthy because Shut-I is not an alcohol intervention, so it really is focusing entirely on sleep with some information about how drinking could disrupt your sleep, but it's that's not the focus at all. So the fact that we saw these drinking reductions is really quite remarkable," said Jessica Weafer, a researcher at the University of Kentucky.
Researchers said the reductions lasted up to three months after people stopped using the app.
The app makes treatment more accessible because in-person cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can be expensive, according to researchers.
"Not only can it help get people who would otherwise not seek treatment... also maybe especially helpful for women because women are especially less likely to seek treatment and alcohol-specific settings compared to men," said Justin Verlinden, a researcher at the University of Kentucky
The Shut-I app is currently only available to researchers. However, there's a similar FDA-approved app a doctor can prescribe to patients.