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A new wearable treatment for PTSD-related nightmare disorder, defined by dysphoric dreams creating anxiety or affecting daytime functioning is making its way to consumers and veterans after being FDA-approved.
According to Wired, the genesis of programmer Tyler Skluzacek's invention first came to life back in 2015, when his motivation was to aid his Iraq War veteran father, Patrick Skluzacek, who was suffering from nightmares caused by PTSD. This serious affliction affects millions of former combat soldiers who deal with these issues on a daily basis.
Skluzacek's vibrating Pebble smartwatch was able to disrupt bad dreams by monitoring and measuring heart rate and body movements during nocturnal sleep period, then waking the person from their troubling moments. His inspiration came from specially trained service dogs that bump or lick veterans exhibiting erratic movements or making distressed noises while asleep.
“I was literally building the thing for my dad,” he told Wired. “On the ride home, I had no intention of turning this into a company.”
Currently, a Minneapolis-based startup called NightWare has purchased and updated Skluzacek's prototype concept and is actively raising investment funds and conducting more clinical test trials in cooperation with the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.
In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the thumbs-up for Nightware to produce the watch as a “digital therapeutic” device for a potential remedy for PTSD-related syndromes, at the same time mentioning that it be used as part of an overall program that includes pharmaceuticals and therapy. The FDA smartly bestowed “breakthrough device” status for NightWare, a condition that loosens approval restrictions for a faster review process on devices designed to help treat life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating disorders.
Nightware's most up-to-date model utilizes sensors in a modified Apple Watch to acquire a baseline sleeping profile of the patient. When activated after it detects abnormalities, the watch sends out vibrations in 10-second cycles, increasing them intensity to gently urge the wearer out of the nightmare until metrics return to normal levels.
Once on the market, NightWare will be directly available through the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon’s health plans free to anyone who requests one.
Skluzacek is presently engaged in obtaining a doctorate degree in high-performance computing at the University of Chicago.
“Honestly, it feels good,” he admits. “Sometimes you go off with a one-in-a-million shot of an idea. You might not think it will pan out.”