Are you reading this article in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep? If that’s the case, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of American adults report they don’t get enough sleep. We’ve written about wearable tech designed to aid sleep, including Sleep Shepherd Blue’s binaural audio beats and Juvo Lab’s under-mattress sleep monitor. Many fitness and health wearables have sleep tracking features, but the collected data seldom further than users’ primary care physicians.

A new exploratory study at the University of Indiana‘s Regenstrief Institute examines sleep tracker data use. The randomized, parallel group study of 210 insomnia patients looks at how sleep tracking data might improve patient-provider communications. Funded by Merck and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) as part of the NSF’s SleepLife program, study participants will wear Fitbit Charge 2 devices. The wearable tracks user heartbeats to record time in light, deep, and REM sleep. The wearable data will feed into SleepLife’s secure platform, where it is accessible to physicians and patients. Researchers will collect objective data from the trackers and subjective input from patients and physicians. The elephant-in-the-room question is: “Can consumer sleep monitoring wearables provide relevant information to improve patient-physician communication to help patients get better sleep sooner than if the data weren’t available?”

The Regenstrief study measures one device with one set of trackable data. The research implications go beyond one study. The market for health and fitness monitoring device exists on the premise that wearables can make a difference. The NSF study is an attempt to find out if wearables deliver on their promise. Regardless of this study’s outcome, further validation studies are necessary for the medical community to incorporate data from consumer wearables in patient care.