Son Develops Smartwatch App To Prevent His Vet Dad's PTSD Nightmares

Patrick Skluzacek came home in 2007 after serving in Iraq. Once he returned, he was plagued with nightmares. As a coping mechanism, he turned to alcohol and pills, and his life unraveled around him. He was no longer the dad his son, Tyler, remembered. Tyler remembered his dad as someone who was fun and outgoing. Thankfully for Patrick, Tyler wanted his dad back. To do that, he developed an app to stop his dad's nightmares.

Tyler heard about a hackathon to design apps that helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


This was his chance to help his dad. A hackathon is an event that brings together developers to create prototypes in a short time. So, Tyler saved up and bought a ticket to Washinton D.C., which is where the event took place.

There, he created a team of developers to develop a smartwatch app to detect nightmares.


The idea was to mimic a service dog. The app would listen for indicators of a nightmare, such as increased heart rate, and then nudge the person awake, disrupting the dream — similar to how a service dog would wake a person if they thought they were having a bad dream. The watch used a gentle vibration. Tyler explained to NPR that the tricky part was to have "just enough stimulus to pull them out of the deep REM cycle and allow the sleep to continue unaffected."

His dad was the guinea pig.


The app required a lot of trial and error to dial everything in just right. Initially, Tyler monitored his dad all day long via the app. This led to some frightful moments when a glitch made it look like his dad was having a heart attack. Tyler told NPR:

"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."

When the app was finally working, it was life-changing.

Patrick finally got the help he needed. Although he does occasionally have bad dreams, they no longer control his life.

Now, Tyler's app is available to the public. An investor bought the app and created the company NightWare. And, the FDA approved the app for treatment for PTSD-related nightmares.

If you know of someone that suffers from PTSD, there is help. Help them by reaching out to organizations that specialize in PTSD.

h/t: NPR