IBM Launches ResearchKit App To Study Sleep Apnea


At HIMSS16 this week, IBM and the American Sleep Apnea Association unveiled a new sleep tracking app designed for the Apple Watch or iPhone called SleepHealth. The app is built on the ResearchKit framework and is being rolled out as part of a larger effort by the American Sleep Apnea Association to collect data on sleep patterns and its impact on overall health, as well as daytime activities, productivity, and behavior. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 10 percent of American’s suffer from chronic insomnia, while 25 million suffer from sleep apnea, many going undiagnosed for years.


The new app uses the Apple Watch heart rate monitor to detect when a user has fallen asleep, and then uses motion sensors found in either the Apple Watch or the iPhone to record movements during sleep. The app will also capture daytime physical activity and will test alertness by administering a test measuring reaction time to stimuli. Users will be able to log when they are feeling alert or sleepy throughout the day, and will be able to activate nighttime settings on their phones with a preconfigured button that disables notifications and turns down the brightness of the display. A daily questionnaire will also allow researchers with a means of asking additional questions for the study.

The app will be the first ResearchKit app to be hosted on IBM’s Watson-enabled cloud infrastructure. Here, data captured by the SleepHealth app will be analyzed alongside Watson’s library of medical literature, claims data, and treatment guidelines. Carl Stepnowsky, ASAA’s chief science officer, explains, “With ResearchKit and Watson Health Cloud, this new app will help us build the world’s largest longitudinal study to collect data on both healthy and unhealthy sleepers that can be published as an open study and shared with other researchers.”

The new app is currently available on the iTunes App Store. Researchers are recruiting participants over the age of 18 that live in the US to join the study.

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