Dec 16, 2016
The Story Behind the Innovative PTSD App.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder usually caused by “traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, [kidnapping], child abuse, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.” Actually, this list could go on indefinitely, as the disorder can be triggered by any specific incident in which a person experiences emotional, physical, or psychological trauma. Resulting symptoms, experienced by over 7 million Americans, can include “flashbacks, avoidance, isolation, [and] hyper-arousal reactions including anger outbursts.” Imagine now, that you’re a middle school student whose father has returned home from war and is experiencing some form of these symptoms, including night terrors. What would you do?
Tyler Skluzacek is currently a student at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. However, when he was in the 6th grade, his life changed forever. When Tyler’s father returned home from a year in Iraq, he – like a number of American soldiers suffering from PTSD – was unable to sleep soundly through the night. working to make sure veterans are able to sleep soundly. How?
During HackDC, “a 36-hour coding competition in Washington, D.C.,” Skluzacek and 4 friends created an application that monitors anxiety and panic leading to night terrors. myBivy uses smartphone technology to track a veteran’s heartbeat and movements as he or she sleeps. At the onset of these symptoms, the app vibrates or sounds an alarm, disrupting the deep sleep but allowing the veteran to keep resting.
According to Skluzacek, he and his team want to
… [E]xploit the science of the sleep cycle to in order to prevent these night terrors. [myBivy] should serve as an alarm clock, [by] taking your brain out of the deep panicked thought while you’re sleeping, in order to actually keep a soldier asleep but prevent the night terror as it’s happening.
Unfortunately, many hackathon products never see the light of day. Teams often take the prize money, but having built something that requires more resources than available, abandon projects, only to begin the same cycle at the next hackathon.
However, judging by their recently funded Kickstarter, Skluzacek and team seem to be invested in myBivy for the long haul. As Skluzacek told USA Today, "My team and I kind of have a saying right now that my team and I won't sleep until the veterans can."