Here's How CVS Health Is Helping Staff Get a Good Night's Sleep

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Getting a decent night's sleep governs so much of our waking life. Failing to sleep properly affects mood, productivity, physical health, relationships, and is connected to a wide range of mental health issues to boot.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for a healthy and happy life. However, an alarming proportion of Americans struggle to meet this requirement and suffer from chronic sleep fatigue. In fact, the average amount of sleep most US citizens get is 6.8 hours within a 24-hour period, and only one-third of Americans get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

It is estimated that the reduction in productivity caused by a lack of sleep has cost the US economy $63 billion, and that figure is only set to climb as incidences of mental health issues increase.

As a major pharmacy and a provider of healthcare solutions, CVS Health understands all too well the consequences of a lack of sleep. That's why the brand is introducing a new technology-based intervention to help its own workers, as well as workers throughout America get enough sleep.

CVS Health

The huge pharmacy brand knew the statistics on sleep and knew that the answer lay in digital technology. Now, the company has worked out a 100-percent digital therapy which it's looking to provide as part of its employee benefits package. The brand also wants to encourage other employers to follow suit.

The solution in question takes the form of a new smartphone app called Sleepio developed by Big Health. The app is designed to treat insomnia through cognitive behavioral therapy provided by a cartoon counselor. The app has been so successful so far that it's available through the NHS in the UK. However, in the US the app has a fee attached and CVS is trying to encourage employers to foot the bill for their staff.

The push for Sleepio is part of an effort by CVS Health to promote the use of digital therapeutics as part of employer benefits packages in the same way medical insurance covers other illnesses. The pharmacy brand has already vetted several apps to this end. The use of treatment apps is limited so far but it's hoped that having the backing of a big brand such as CVS Health is set change all that.

"Given that poor-quality sleep and insomnia affect approximately 30 percent of adults and is a condition that can impact a wide variety of mental health conditions, we are pleased to be working with Big Health to help make their digital therapeutic product, Sleepio, more accessible," said Chief Medical Officer at CVS Health, Dr. Troyen A. Brennan. "Big Health's commitment to clinical evaluation and research aligns with our focus on applying evidence-based medicine to provide our clients and their members with access to appropriate health solutions and services."

Now that we understand CVS Health's motivations to provide employees with on-demand sleep disorder treatment, let's get into how the app actually works.


The idea for Sleepio came around when the CEO of Big Health started suffering from insomnia himself and discovered methods to moderate his own sleep behavior by reading CBT-based self-help books. He then got in touch with the Oxford University professor who wrote the books he was reading and proposed they collaborate on digitizing the techniques contained within.

The smartphone app itself plays very much like an adventure which sets the user on a mission to get better sleep. To boost engagement, Big Health wanted to make sure the app felt more like a video game than a therapeutic program. A cartoon Scottish therapist named The Prof delivers six weekly CBT sessions to help the patient manage their sleep disorders.

The Sleepio app has yielded good results in some random trials regarding helping users fall asleep quicker - although there was little difference in total sleep time between Sleepio users and those in the controls who used a different treatment. This means that Sleepio appears to be just as effective in improving the amount of sleep as other tested methods and slightly better at getting people to nod off quicker - promising results indeed.

Final Thoughts

CVS Health's rollout of Sleepio as part of an employee benefits package is just the opening salvo in its fight to get more digital therapies recognized alongside traditional healthcare solutions. It will be interesting to see whether these treatments will move into the mainstream in the future.

"The challenge is not just in developing digital products, we now have very effective products, but how do we distribute and gain reimbursements for those products in a very, very scalable way, in a way that allows not just the really early adopters to buy and then offer to their populations," said Big Health CEO, Peter Hames. "What this partnership with CVS offers, specifically in the context of digital therapeutics, is a new pathway to facilitate that mainstream adoption of a digital therapeutic."

You can hear CVS Health's Director for Recruitment, Marketing, and Advertising, Kerry Noone, speak at HR Retail 2020, taking place in April at the Hilton Austin, TX.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.