Teen Creates An App To Help Those Suffering From PTSD

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and watching a family member suffer from horrific nightmares attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder might definitely inspire someone to try and help their loved one.

For Tyler Skluzacek, it was what helped him come up with a smartwatch app to help his father deal with his PTSD-related nightmares.

According to NPR, Tyler’s design is an app that can detect when the wearer’s heart rate increases – such as when they’re experiencing a nightmare – and then releases gentle vibrations in order to help the person calm down.

Photo: flickr/DieselDemon

What’s even neater is that the app has now received FDA approval, which means that it might actually go on to help hundreds of more people besides just his father.

Tyler’s father, Patrick Skluzacek, is a veteran who served in Iraq before returning home in 2007. Since then, Tyler has had to watch his father battle with PTSD. Patrick, himself, has admitted that the neurological disorder has taken a large toll on his life, resulting in him losing pretty much everything in his life like his house, job, etc.

It wasn’t until 2015, when Tyler was a senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that he first read about a Washington DC hackathon. The hackathon was where developers would spend a few days dedicating their efforts to trying to solve a specific problem, and that year’s theme happened to be PTSD.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That is where Tyler got the idea to create an app that would mimic service dogs’ actions where it wakes the person just before they enter a deep REM sleep cycle, which is where people with PTSD will experience nightmares.

Tyler figured that a gentle vibration when a person’s heart rate started increasing was the best option, however, as he explained to NPR, it wasn’t the easiest to undertaking to create “just enough stimulus to pull them out of the deep REM cycle and allow the sleep to continue unaffected.”

As the teen worked on his idea, his father was his go-to test subject. It was definitely a unique experience for the both of them, with Patrick saying, “I still remember you had me wearing it full time. You thought I was having a heart attack because I had the watch on, and you thought my heart rate was 6,000 beats per minute.”


At times, it proved quite emotionally challenging for Tyler, who admitted to NPR, “I was terrified. Watching someone’s data 24/7, I feel like is a lot like having a baby. I don’t have a baby. But you’re suddenly very concerned at all hours.”

But in the end, Tyler managed to get there with his app design. It wasn’t an invention that went unnoticed. The FDA soon gave it approval, confident that it can go on to help others who are suffering from PTSD.

Tyler went on to sell the rights to his app and a company called NighWatch was started to offer his idea.

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