Slumber - Drug-free insomnia treatment on your phone

We use proven therapeutic techniques (CBT-i) to fix insomnia permanently, for the 770 million struggling sleepers around the world.

Photo of Sam Stowers
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Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

19 December, 1996

Help us stay in touch!

Missouri: Kansas City (64154) Full address: 8621 North Marston Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64154. Phone #: +1 (816) 797-4277

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

www.slumber.tech

Date You Started Your Project Started

04 / 02 / 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Insomnia is massive - an estimated 770 million people struggle with it annually. But beyond being miserable, it's also lethal - this kind of sleep deprivation leads to drastically higher rates of heart disease, cancer growth, car accidents, and more. To make it worse, commonly used treatments for insomnia are absolute garbage. Sleeping pills are risky band-aids that often don't work and are addictive (65k ER visits in 2010 alone).

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We have a therapeutic treatment that is drug-free and permanent - that's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i). CBT-i has been shown to work for almost everyone, even months after treatment ends. Problem is, in the entire US, there are fewer than 250 certified providers of this treatment. That's one per 250,000+ insomniacs. So it's inaccessible, and even if one happens to be close, it's too expensive for many. CBT has been automated before successfully - I want to do the same thing, but for insomnia. Slumber (my app) approximates what a human therapist would do, by tailoring treatments based on how the patient is responding and giving personalized feedback every step of the way. By taking advantage of modern technology, we can make a night free of insomnia accessible and affordable for anyone. I've been collaboratively designing an automated treatment flow with my certified sleep therapist advisor. Preliminary research on the area shows that Slumber will likely be more effective than sleeping pills, while avoiding addiction, side effects, and big price tags.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Taking 5 hours to fall asleep every night is a terrible time - 0 out of 5 stars. That experience in early 2018 led me into semi-obsessive research that changed how I saw sleep, from a reducible luxury to an urgent need. I've long wanted to focus my career on a cause to help the most people (I'm an Effective Altruist) and I saw a chance in sleep. I learned that insomnia's not just miserable - it's deadly. Drastically increased rates of heart disease and cancer, among other things. Worse, my aunts and uncle all have it bad. By creating a safer, more effective, and more affordable treatment option, this project has the potential to literally save tens of thousands of lives. I want to solve the problem for myself, my family, and for everyone else. This drive led me to drop my previous work and focus on Slumber full-time (unpaid) in April of this year. Moved back home to afford it.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

Empirical support: A meta-analysis on CBT-i and a study on digital delivery. Cognitive and behavioral therapies in the treatment of insomnia: A meta-analysis, 2017 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2017.02.001). An up-to-date meta-analysis illustrating the effectiveness of CBT-i. Digital Delivery of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, 2019 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6546653/). A very recent review paper specifically supporting the efficacy digital CBT-i (dCBT-i).

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

My plan is to have a hacky MVP built w/Coda in the next couple weeks. Until then, I'll use a fake example with a real person: my aunt. My Aunt Anne has had insomnia for 3 years now. It usually takes her 2 hours to fall asleep, and without fail she wakes up after sleeping just a couple hours. Then, around 3-4am, she's completely unable to sleep again. She's worried about how it'll affect her at work, how it'll stress her out, how she's more likely to get sick. Then I introduce her to Slumber. She pays a small subscription (far less than pills or doctor) and is diagnosed & onboarded into treatment. For 4-8 weeks, she'll do a weekly check-in with the app, reviewing her sleep patterns and recommending different treatments. At the end, she'll fall sleep more than twice as fast and wake up in the night half as often. She won't need pills or even the app anymore - it's a permanent fix.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

The goal with Slumber is to approximate a therapist-in-your-phone. This means treatment that's personalized every step of the way, with proactive follow-ups, much like a human therapist. Treatment adapts based on what is and is not working for that individual. Sleeping pills are the biggest competitor. They help some, but effectiveness frequently degrades over time and it comes with nasty side effects. There were 64,175 emergency room visits in 2010 from Zolpidem alone. Sleepio is the biggest dCBT-i choice, but it's a $400 desktop-only site and functions as a glorified online course.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far I've done 20ish interviews with insomniacs & got 35 alpha signups without promotion. Got $2k in grants from 1517 Fund and a local startup support org. Coded+tested with users a pre-alpha MVP of my sleep log. I've also brought on a certified sleep therapist as an official advisor, and have been working with them on designing a safe & effective treatment program with the best-supported CBT-i methods. See roadmap below. At every step I'll be focusing on two measures: Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) reduction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). The plan is to iterate constantly and run experiments until I have a treatment that's at least as effective as sleeping pills (a pretty low bar), then start scaling. We'll start with chronic insomniacs - most reports estimate there are 30-40 million of those in the US alone. Also, my aunt calls me weekly to ask if the app is ready yet lol

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

||| Design stage ($0): Complete latest treatment flowchart. Doing a lot of back-and-forth with my sleep therapist advisor here, along with related research. I'm in the latter stages of this so should be complete within the next two weeks. (August-September 2019) ||| Alpha stage ($100): Build hacky prototype with Coda, use it to run testers all the way through treatment to test efficacy & iterate on methods. This prototype will be functionally similar to the final app - will start getting paid users. (October-December 2019) ||| Beta stage ($5k): Build full app prototype. Use the Figma design to develop the app and begin beta testing. (January-March 2019)

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Web/Mobile Development


10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

Attachments (1)

Slumber Reading Deck v0.5.pdf

A draft pitch deck for the Slumber project.

4 comments

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Photo of Li Lambert
Team

Sam,

I really liked your idea, I thought that it was really unique and quite different from many of the other projects that I have seen on this platform.

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