One of the largest tech companies in the world is launching a national sleep study, and they’re asking for your help. The American Sleep Apnea Association and IBM are introducing the SleepHealth app designed for iPhone and Apple Watch and the patient-driven SleepHealth Mobile Study. The crowd-sourced research hopes to help identify connections between sleep habits and health outcomes.
Sleep is one of the most important factors impacting health, safety and quality of life. Yet 1 in 4 Americans experience sleep problems, which severely impact daily functioning, health and longevity. Chronic insomnia affects more than 10 percent of Americans, and 25 million suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Often undiagnosed, sleep apnea is characterized by disrupted sleep, loud snoring, and repeated pauses in breathing. Chronic sleep loss, whether from a medical condition or lifestyle, is associated with increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, obesity, cancer, depression, motor-vehicle crashes and reduced quality of life.
In concert with researchers, physicians and patient advocates in the US, the SleepHealth study will explore the connections between sleep quality and daytime activities, alertness, productivity, general health and medical conditions. App users will have the opportunity to help shape the study by contributing ideas for research topics, survey questions, engagement activities and messaging. Data contributed by participants will be stored on the Watson Health Cloud, where researchers will conduct extensive analysis to uncover patterns and connections in the data.
“We’ve made life the laboratory for this study by crowd-sourcing data and input to achieve an unprecedented understanding of sleep in a non-invasive manner,” said Carl Stepnowsky, PhD, the principal investigator for the study, associate professor at University of California at San Diego and ASAA’s chief science officer. “This study also marks the Association’s commitment to patient-led research and data-driven discovery. 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.”
In addition to generating insights for research, the app is also a personalized tool that is designed to help users better understand the link between their sleep habits and general well-being. Participants will receive tips on health and sleep through the app such as sticking to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends and days off.
After several years of data collection, the research team hopes to develop personalized and public health interventions for a variety of sleep-related health issues, for example helping athletes optimize training before a big event, mitigating fatigue in the workplace, or detecting early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and mental health disorders.
The SleepHealth app is available to anyone in the U.S. as a free download from the App Store, with plans for global expansion in the near future. Study participants must be at least 18 years of age and understand English. The app includes a simple process to ensure informed consent for participation in the study. To help maintain participant privacy, subject names are removed from the study data.
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