Israeli tech cracks ‘sleep DNA’ to beat insomnia

The reason you’re not sleeping well could have more to do with your personality than your pillow, according to SleepASAP

Sleeping soundly (Pixabay)
Sleeping soundly (Pixabay)

What the world needs now is love – and more sleep, according to Nadav Lankin, COO of Jerusalem start-up SleepASAP.

“By now, everyone knows the damage that lack of sleep causes,” Lankin told The Times of Israel. “Lack of sleep has a negative impact on physical and mental health, it causes traffic accidents, it reduces worker productivity, and it even makes you fat.”

Getting a good night’s sleep, however, is often more easily said that done – and to help more people get more and better quality sleep, Lankin and his team have developed SleepASAP, which he says is the world’s first crowdsourced, big data solution to sleep problems.

“There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of programs and methods the sleep-deprived can adopt in order to cure their insomnia,” said Lankin. “The question is, which one works best for each individual. That’s a question that can be answered either by a long period of experimentation, in which a person tries different methods to get themselves asleep – or by using the SleepASAP platform, where we tell them the most effective way to solve their sleep problems.”

While most sleep diagnosis tools require users to wear sensors or attached breathing tubes or other equipment to their body, SleepASAP is unique in that its diagnosis component is based completely on a conscious (i.e., awake) interaction between the user and an application.

“Wearing sensors or other equipment, besides being uncomfortable, is not always accurate because the wearer may move or dislodge it as they sleep,” said Lankin.

Nadav Lankin (Courtesy)
Nadav Lankin (Courtesy)

Instead, SleepASAP users answer a series of questions using an app, with the answers analyzed using natural language processing and compared to results from other users. The crowdsourced data, said Lankin, more accurately diagnoses the type of sleep disorder an individual has, and matches it to the best method of dealing with it, such as medicine or pills (which must be prescribed by a medical doctor), mental exercises, etc., from among the traditional methods used to deal with sleep issues.

The uniqueness of the method, said Lankin, is that it can zero in on the reason why an individual is having trouble sleeping – distraction, worry, physical surroundings, etc. – and provide answers without requiring a user to undergo therapy or medical tests.

It works, said Lankin. In one study with 2,500 participants, researchers showed how the SleepASAP diagnosis method of delving into personality traits — like curiosity, imaginativeness, responsibility, organization, assertiveness, extroversion and introversion, tendency to cooperate, insecurity — was able to determine the kind of sleep disorder an individual had (DSPS, levels of sleep deprivation, etc.) 99% of the time. It managed to identify previously diagnosed (by a medical doctor) sleep issues, information that was not included in the diagnostic forms that participants in the study used.

“Up until recently, little was known about the links between personality and sleep patterns which lead to sleep deprivation. With our platform, the user answers sets of questions about their personality and their sleep habits and problems.” said Lankin. “The questions, developed using artificial intelligence technology, are specially designed using psycholinguistics to understand a user’s personality and the central issue that is causing sleep problems, and based on that it recommends the best way to help them sleep better.”

The system yields an individual’s “SleepDNA,” the specific pattern of what helps them sleep better and what is interfering with their ability to sleep soundly, which can then be compared to how others with similar sleep issues fared.

“Once we understand a user’s SleepDNA we can crowdsource their situation, comparing it to data we have collected from other users of the platform to determine what will best help. It’s the only web-based individual therapy program to help people sleep better,” said Lankin. “In addition, we work with top experts who have advised us on how to ensure that our algorithm is the most accurate possible. For a very low fee, users will be able to tap into the huge database we are building.

Just a year old, SleepASAP is currently finishing up its development and completing an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

“We already have thousands of users, and the more people that use the platform the more accurate it will be,” said Lankin. “Through the SleepASAP App, sleep strugglers will have access to the first algorithm that analyzes their symptoms and personality. This could be the most important development in sleep therapy in many years. Our goal is to prevent the pain of trial and error that people are going through when they take generic suggestions for methods that are meant to help them deal with sleep deprivation. With SleepASAP we have created a tool that understands their personal insights and enables them to make more informed decisions.”

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