App for SleepHealth study benefits from ResearchKit upgrade

March 22, 2016 – WASHINGTON. The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) announced that its SleepHealth app takes advantage of improvements in Apple iOS 9.3 by being the first ResearchKit app to incorporate the new Night Shift mode into its study and wellness tool. Night Shift automatically shifts the colors in one’s display to the warmer end of the spectrum in conjunction with sunset based on the user’s time and location. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings.

“Studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect one’s circadian rhythms and sleep. The Night Shift mode is one of the features that we built into our Personal Sleep Concierge tool to help educate study members about sleep and circadian biology and instill good habits,” said Darrel Drobnich, ASAA president and co-principal investigator. “We appreciate that Apple continues to show a commitment to the health and safety of its customers and we are happy to share these improvements with our study members to accelerate research over time, but improve sleep health for them today.”

Chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders represent an under-recognized public health problem and have been associated with a wide range of negative health consequences, including hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart attack, stroke, and at-risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.1 Moreover, the personal and national economic impact is staggering, with estimates of the direct and indirect costs associated with sleep loss to be hundreds of billions of dollars annually.2

“Only 16% of people say that they or their family members have ever participated in clinical trials for many reasons including lack of awareness, convenience, and trust,” said Will Headapohl, ASAA chairman. “We firmly believe that all patients benefit more when we are directly involved in creating new research opportunities and use technology, social marketing and peer-to-peer support beyond traditional academic institutions.”

The Sleephealth app study was designed and funded through the contributions of a small all-patient volunteer team of scientists, physicians, advocates and technology experts in the leadership of the ASAA with the desire to accelerate treatments, interventions and cures for sleep disorders and sleep issues associated with common on chronic medical conditions.

The app collects specific data such as sleep quality and duration, chronic sleep and health issues and daytime sleepiness. It tracks self-reported data such as exercise, mood, and caffeine and alcohol use and allows users to input other types of data that can impact sleep, such as a work schedule. Study members also answer questions related to personal and family medical history, sleep and health habits, and daily activities. The study includes a simple and fun objective measure of sleepiness that is administered at least once a day as part of a 7-Day SleepHealth Activity Check-In that is repeated every three months.

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 while tracking naps, alertness and sleep quality. Members also receive tips on health and sleep 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.

“We are proud to be prominently recognized in Apple’s ResearchKit announcement and featured on its webpage. The ASAA looks forward to continued collaboration with Apple and IBM, leveraging ResearchKit, IBM Watson Health Cloud and IBM Watson analytics,” said A. Joseph Borelli, Jr., MD, ASAA board member and study team member. “We are extremely excited about CareKit and the opportunities it will offer fellow patients with chronic sleep disorders. Ultimately, these technologies will allow earlier diagnosis, treatment and personalized management of chronic conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea.”

Source: American Sleep Apnea Association