By Debbie Gregory.
Millions of United States military veterans have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses, many due to witnessing traumatic and life-threatening events during deployment.
One major symptom of PTSD is ‘night terrors,’ in which a person gets little or poor sleep due to recurring troublesome thoughts or emotional triggers. Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Skluzacek, who spent a year in Iraq, was one of the people experiencing night terrors.
In his fight against PTSD, Skluzacek tried counseling, psychiatric drugs and self-medicating alcohol. He lost his job, his marriage, and a lot of friends.
Skluzacek’s son Tyler, wanted to do something to help his dad. Inspired by his dad’s struggles, Tyler developed myBivy, (short for bivouac, temporary soldier’s quarters) an application for smartphone and smartwatch that tracks a veteran’s heartbeat and movements in order to track night terrors and actually prevent them over time. Post-sleep, the veteran can see how they slept the previous night, while also having the option to submit a statistical report to their VA doctor or clinician.
“After a couple weeks of tracking the soldier we can find … the exact symptoms of the onset of the panic attack and try to use the watch or use the Android phone to disrupt that or take them out of the deep sleep but keep them asleep,” Tyler said.
Tyler likens the app to a service dog. “Veterans with really bad PTSD go to bed with a service dog and if that person starts to get shaky, the dog will put a paw on the person exactly at the point they need it.”
He said the app will use sound or vibration to prevent night terrors. He has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and sleep experts.
For Tyler, making myBivy available to veterans can’t come soon enough. He and his father have been in conference calls with the VA, which is trying to fast-track testing of the app.
“My team and I kind of have a saying right now that my team and I won’t sleep until the veterans can,” he said.