New app-roach to balancing activity and sleep

Aug 7 2015

Using a newly developed smartphone app, Newcastle health researchers are commencing a clinical trial to help improve the all-important life balance between sleep and activity.

Dr Mitch Duncan, a Heart Foundation research fellow based at the University of Newcastle, believes that the combined impact of poor sleep and inactivity are contributing to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

“With this study we want to help people change their behaviour, both day and night, by using the latest science and technology,” Dr Duncan said.

“People really underestimate the benefits of sleep in reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. When you wake up feeling refreshed you’re more likely to be active, and if you’re active it will help you get a good night’s rest.”

The research app tracks behaviour patterns, like the time people spend in bed and how much physical activity they get throughout the day. One group in the study will have a wrist-worn activity tracker to feed data automatically into the app.

“We also want to see if the electronic tracker is more effective than people recalling their behaviour,” Dr Duncan said. “We’ll use the information to give participants personalised feedback.”

The “Balanced” study is looking to recruit 60 people from the Hunter Region aged 30-50, who are often inactive and frequently wake up feeling fatigued. They will get access to the app (iPhone and Android compatible) and be monitored throughout the 9-week trial.

“From a research perspective we are really interested in two aspects – can we change people’s behaviour for both sleep and physical activity, and what’s the most effective way of doing that,” Dr Duncan added.

To enrol, people can complete the eligibility survey at Queries can be emailed to or phone Dr Duncan on (02) 4921 7805.

* Dr Mitch Duncan is a member of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, researching in conjunction with the HMRI Cardiovascular Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.