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SleepHealth debuts as first ResearchKit app & study to support IBM Watson Health Cloud

Almost one year after IBM announced Watson Health Cloud, a cognitive computing platform built in partnership with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, the computing giant on Tuesday debuted SleepHealth, an app and ResearchKit study investigating the connection between sleep habits and health.

Official titled the SleepHealth Mobile Study, IBM's latest initiative seeks to leverage the advanced sensor suite provided by Apple's iPhone and Apple Watch, in conjunction with the open source ResearchKit framework, to determine how sleep quality impacts daytime activities, alertness, productivity, general health and medical conditions. The study is being rolled out in partnership with the American Sleep Apnea Association.

"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, 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 shared with other researchers in an open-source format."

The SleepHealth app taps into Apple Watch's heart rate monitor to detect when a subject falls asleep before gathering movement data with the onboard accelerometer and gyroscope. For users running iOS 9.3 the app will make use of Apple's Night Shift feature, which shifts an iPhone or iPad's display color temperature toward the warm end of the spectrum to help ease physiological side effects of being exposed to cool blue light.

As with other ResearchKit studies, participants in the SleepHealth study are able to complete assigned tasks and submit surveys anonymously directly from the accompanying app. Backing up Apple's anonymized data collection platform is IBM's HIPAA-compliant Watson Health Cloud, which will store and later provide analytics for participant information. Researchers hope to merge data gathered from the SleepHealth study with medical data available in Watson Health Cloud to connect the dots between sleep quality and overall health.

Those interested can take part in the study by downloading the free SleepHealth app and agreeing to a consent form. Currently, participants must be at least 18 years old and living in the U.S. More information is provided at