NightWare, a Minneapolis-based medical-device startup, is creating an Apple Watch app for those suffering from nightmare disorder, a common side affect for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s a serious problem,” said CEO Grady Hannah. “Everyone has a nightmare from time to time, but when it starts disrupting your life, that’s when it becomes a disorder.”
Hannah co-founded NightWare with Tyler Skluzacek, the app’s inventor, about two years ago. NightWare works on the Apple Watch, monitoring a user’s heart rate while they sleep. The app has a formula that is customized to each individual. When it detects nightmare-related stress, the watch buzzes gently, arousing, but not awakening its wearer. By doing so, NightWare aims to stop the bad dream without disturbing users from a restful sleep.
Sleep data is stored over time on the app’s backend, and is available for practitioners who want to track their patients’ sleep quality.
Currently, those who suffer from nightmare disorder are often prescribed sleep medication, like Ambien. NightWare hopes to achieve similar effects, but without medication.
Within the last year, NightWare has picked up speed, closing on $250,000 in angel funding and receiving a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs to continue testing and developing its product. The company is in the process of raising a $2 million round, Hannah told Minne Inno.
Hannah acknowledges that there are plenty of sleep apps on the market, but he hopes that NightWare will grab the attention of doctors and other health professionals. Right now the company is undergoing a clinical trial and seeking FDA approval to have NightWare classified as a medical device.
If it receives this classification, those interested in using NightWare will need to receive a prescription – just like any other device or drug. But this prescription comes with an iPhone and Apple Watch, which patients use to control the app.
Right now, Hannah said, a test group consisting of about two dozen people utilize NightWare on a nightly basis. Most of the users are veterans. Some, he added, say they have been suffering from nightmare disorders for decades. But many members of the group have reported sleeping more peacefully with the assistance of NightWare.
Around 11 to 20 percent of veterans experience PTSD in a given year. But that’s not the only group NightWare aims to serve. Hannah estimates that in Minnesota alone, around 5,000 people have been diagnosed with PTSD in the last two years. Over time, Hannah hopes that it will be utilized by other groups, like assault survivors and first responders.
“One night after another, people suffering from PTSD are reliving the worst experience of their life over and over again,” Hannah said. “And we’re starting to change that. It’s a good reason to wake up in the morning.”
Originally published in MinneInno by Matt Kennedy on November 9, 2018