IBM launches sleep app
IBM has partnered with American Sleep Apnea Association to launch Sleep-health appReuters

Multinational technology firm IBM along with the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) launched an app, SleepHealth, which assesses sleep habits of the users, Wednesday. It is designed for iPhone and Apple Watch users.

The research is expected to provide relief to 25 million Americans who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea — characterised by interruption in a person's breathing while they are asleep, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

SleepHealth will explore the connections between the user's sleep quality and their daytime activities, alertness, productivity, general health and medical conditions, according to IBM's official statement.

The app users will help shape the study by contributing ideas for research topics, survey questions, engagement activities and messaging. Data contributed by the participants will be stored in the Watson Health Cloud — a cognitive computing platform that IBM launched last year with Apple and Johnson & Johnson to gather information from users and researchers.

"We have 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, the principal investigator for the study and ASAA's chief science officer.

IBM said SleepHealth uses the open source ResearchKit framework designed by Apple to enable participants to easily complete tasks and submit surveys right from the app.

Calling the app a new research model for real-world application, IBM said it makes use of many Apple Watch sensors such as the accelerometer — detects movements — and the gyroscope — determines orientation in space to measure and record movements such as shifting positions during sleep.

The app also uses Apple Watch's heart rate monitor to detect sleep. Some of its features, such as the Personal Sleep Concierge and the Nap Tracker, were designed specifically with Apple Watch in mind to help instill good sleep habits, IBM said.

"One of our goals at IBM Watson Health is to eliminate the barriers that hinder collaboration between researchers, patients and clinicians and create opportunities for these communities to share and learn from one another," Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for Watson Health, said.

The research team hopes to develop personalised and public health interventions after several years of data collection from the app for various sleep-related health issues such as helping athletes optimise training before a big event, mitigating fatigue in the workplace, detecting early symptoms of Alzheimer's and mental health disorders.