According to studies, more than 50 percent of combat veterans with PTSD suffer from nightmares. Unfortunately, this reduces the chances for falling and staying asleep.
Insomnia can really wreak havoc on one’s overall health and decrease their quality of life, affect their relationships, etc.
When this son saw that his veteran father was heading down this path because of being unable to sleep well, he decided to do something and help him with his nightmares.
The Inspiring Story of Tyler & Patrick Skluzacek
Patrick is the father of Tyler and he is a US army veteran who served in Iraq.
Before he left home, Tyler recalls how his dad was an outgoing and fun. But, after he came back from serving in 2007, he was a totally different person.
Patrick had PTSD because of the time he spent in combat and struggled with horrible nightmares every night that caused profuse sweating and thrashing around violently.
These nightmares were so potent that Patrick feared to fall asleep.
He started to drink vodka or take meds to be able to close his eyes at night and soon enough, the trauma took over his life. His marriage fell apart; he lost his job and his house.
Tyler wanted to help his dad so much and came up with an idea to create a smart watch app that will help him fall asleep.
A Hackaton in 2015 & the Idea for the Smartwatch App
In 2015, Tyler heard about a hackaton happening in Washington, DC. This a several-day event during which developers work together to solve challenges, mostly by designing prototypes for apps.
This caught his attention as the focus was to develop apps which can help individuals with PTSD, like his father.
Despite being a student with limited funds at his disposal, he collected enough to purchase a plane ticket to Washington.
At the event, he worked with couple of other developers that helped him develop a smart watch app which can detect when the wearer is having nightmares.
In order to achieve this, they used physical queues such as heart rate and movement.
Service dogs are also capable of being trained to do this-they will nudge or lick a person until he/she wakes up.
Tyler believed that an app can also be made to achieve a similar effect through a gentle vibration.
The goal was to supply sufficient stimulus which will pull out the wearer from the deep REM phase and hence, stop the nightmare, but without waking them up.
How Did the Process of Development Go?
Tyler used his dad as the test subject for the app and it did take some trial and error before they developed it properly to make it capable of detecting a nightmare and addressing it with the right stimulus.
His father wore the watch the whole day. Unfortunately, in the start, it would vibrate too hard and woke him up. He did endure a lot of bad versions of the app as nothing is ideal on the first attempt, explained his son.
Tyler notes how it was useful to know when the nightmares were happening as it helped them train the app and fine-tune it.
Eventually, it was perfected and it changed Patrick’s life.
My Little Miracles, Says Patrick about the Watch’s Vibrations
Patrick says how this watch changed his life and he describes the difference as the one between night and day.
He found normalcy again and got back to work as a mechanic and also married again. He still does experience nightmares from time to time, but they don’t overwhelm him any longer.