NICE has recommended a £45 app that GPs can prescribe as an effective alternative to sleeping pills for people suffering from insomnia.
The Sleepio app could benefit up to 800,000 people who would usually be given advice on sleep hygiene or medication, said NICE.
But it would also save the NHS money by cutting prescriptions for drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone that can also be addictive.
Data on its use in nine GP practices found the app was cost saving after one year compared with usual care because of fewer appointments and prescriptions for sleeping pills.
Sleepio offers tailored self-help advice based on cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia and can also be linked to wearable devices such as a Fitbit to track sleep patterns.
The programme includes weekly CBT and regular sleep diary entries and lasts six weeks but users have access for 12 months and can redo sessions.
NICE said they had reviewed 28 studies and concluded that Sleepio is more effective than treatment as usual in reducing symptoms of insomnia in adults.
The expert committee recommended a medical assessment should be done before referral to Sleepio during pregnancy and in people with comorbidities as well as those at higher risk of other sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea.
Early roll out in some areas had shown that training and support for those referring patients to the app was important for good patient uptake.
In addition, patient selection was important to improve the chances of people using Sleepio properly and benefiting from it
Jeanette Kusel, acting director for MedTech and digital at NICE, said: ‘Until now people with insomnia have been offered sleeping pills and taught about sleep hygiene, so our committee’s recommendation of Sleepio provides GPs and their patients with a new treatment option.
‘Our rigorous, transparent and evidence-based analysis has found that Sleepio is cost saving for the NHS compared with usual treatments in primary care.
‘It will also reduce people with insomnia’s reliance on dependence forming drugs.
She added: ‘The evidence has shown using Sleepio reduces the number of GP appointments people with insomnia need and will also cut the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills delivered by pharmacists.’