A Minnesota college student has invented an app that prevents night terrors after witnessing his father, an Iraq war veteran, struggle with them himself.
Macalaster College senior Tyler Skluzacek was in the sixth grade when his dad, Sgt. First Class Patrick Skluzacek, was deployed to Iraq,Kare11 reports.
"Your dad just disappearing for a year and coming back a little bit different and seeing his Army buddies and them coming back a little bit different too… I have a real personal connection to the PTSD problem," Tyler told the news outlet.
Patrick, who suffers from night terrors, explained: "At three in the morning, all of a sudden, I'm startled awake."
After watching his dad struggle for years, Tyler was inspired to find a way to help all veterans dealing with PTSD be able to sleep through the night.
In September, Tyler entered a 36-hour coding contest calledHackDC, the theme of which was helping veterans. He and his team created a top prize-winning smartwatch app called myBivy.
The app tracks an individual's heartbeat and movements in order to detect when night terrors are about to occur. The owner's smartwatch or smartphone will then use sound or vibration to bring its user out of the deepest cycle of sleep and prevent night terrors while allowing them to remain asleep.
"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 explained.
The team won $1,500 to continue their work and they've since raised an additional $6,800 through Kickstarter.
"In the United States today, some 3.6 million veterans currently have PTSD diagnoses – and those are just the ones who are courageous enough to admit they have a problem and go get help," Tyler said in a video posted to the fundraising page. "Our first project is to tackle this veteran thing and help the PTSD of our nation's protectors."
The team has been working with the VA and sleep experts and hopes to bring the app to clinical testing next spring, Kare 11 reports.
"My team and I kind of have a saying right now that my team and I won't sleep until the veterans can," Tyler said.