Monthly Archives: March 2016

Map connections between your sleep habits and health with the SleepHealth App!

Written by: Darrel Drobnich, President, American Sleep Apnea Association 

On March 2, the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) announced the most significant and important event in our 25-year history with the release of the SleepHealth Mobile App Study in partnership with IBM Watson.

SleepHealth App - American Sleep Apnea Association The SleepHealth app is designed for iPhone, iPod Touch and Apple Watch to help identify connections between sleep habits and health outcomes. The SleepHealth study uses the open source Apple ResearchKit to enable participants to easily complete tasks and submit surveys right from the SleepHealth app. SleepHealth is the first ResearchKit study to run on the data-rich Watson Health Cloud and represents a year’s worth of work.

The app and study was designed and funded solely 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.

People spend about a third of their lives asleep, and it greatly impacts their health and quality of life.  Yet, in America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes. Sleep disorders are common in both men and women; however, important disparities in prevalence and severity of certain sleep disorders have been identified in minorities and underserved populations.

Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the overwhelming majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated, creating unnecessary public health and safety problems, as well as increased health care expenses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared insufficient sleep “a public health epidemic”   The ASAA looks to take these challenges head on.

Only 16% of people say that they or their family members have ever participated in clinical trials for many reasons including lack of awareness and trust.  We firmly believe that patients need to be directly involved creating new research opportunities and use technology, social marketing and peer-to-peer support outside of traditional academic institutions. That is why we personally invested in and created the SleepHealth Study.


The SleepHealth study app collects specific data such as sleep quality and duration, chronic sleep and health issues and daytime sleepiness; 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, and answer standardized questions related to personal and family medical history, general well-being, sleep and health habits, and daily activities. The study includes a simple and fun objective measure of alertness and sleepiness that is administered at least once a day as part of a 7-Day SleepHealth Check-In that is repeated every three months.


With the SleepHealth study, the ASAA ushers in a new era in patient-led research and announces our commitment to create the world’s largest longitudinal study of healthy and unhealthy sleepers with an open-source repository of sleep and alertness-related data based on standardized questions and validated tools. We’ve made life the laboratory, we’re crowd-sourcing data and ideas from people in the United States and eventually worldwide, and from these participants we’re gathering active and passive types of data to advance an understanding of sleep and its impact on productivity, daytime activities, general health and chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity amongst many others. Furthermore, SleepHealth benefits from the user-friendly Apple Watch and other wearables and our study will get ‘smarter’ over time thanks to Watson and the direct input and feedback of users at our Sleeptember website.

The back-end data solution is provided via Watson Health for ResearchKit, which runs on the secure, HIPAA-enabled Watson Health Cloud and enables researchers to combine data collected via the SleepHealth app with diverse data sources such as medical literature, treatment guidelines, claims data and clinical data. Researchers can also opt to apply Watson Analytics for deeper insights from the data.

After several years of data collection, our 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. For more information about the SleepHealth Mobile App Study, visit or download directly from the Apple store at