Activity trackers seem to be on everyone’s wrist now 1. People are obsessed with tracking their steps, calories, and…sleep. But is all this worth the trouble? Are these gizmos helping you get a better night’s rest?
Not all Trackers are Created Equal
The quality of sleep data obtained from these devices varies per device and not every sleep monitor records the same sleep components, such as sleep duration, disrupted sleep moments, sound sleep versus light sleep, and wake times. Devices may be less accurate if your sleep is affected by your partner’s snoring or your pet’s claim of a larger and larger share of your bed space. Also, smartphone apps are only as good as your consistency entering your sleep data.
Two Opinion Camps
While some research reports that simply being the type of person that tracks sleep with a monitor is associated with a healthier lifestyle, others have reported that doting over your sleep data, the way we look at a win loss record, can be cause undue anxiety 2.
So, Who is Right?
Bottom line don’t fret the data or be consumed by worry about your sleep numbers, if you feel rested you probably are.
It turns out the value is in how you use the data, not the data itself. Data from sleep trackers may be best at giving you a sense of what works and what doesn’t work as you vary your personal sleep hygiene protocol (sleep and wake up time consistency, timing of exercise, caffeine intake, reading before bed or working on a computer before bedtime). Trying certain creative exercises or behavioral modifications may also be interventions whose effects could be tracked.
The idea is to get a good baseline of your sleep before and then after an intervention to learn if the intervention is personally useful. On the other hand, no sleep device can report your perception of the quality of sleep obtained overnight. So, feeling good on rising should be more heavily weighted then the sleep data.
You may consider having a third party sleep report to help you understand your sleep data. For example, MyVytalics offers a free sleep tracker analysis capability with the purchase of the MySleepInsights product. For more details visit MyVytalics products page .
By: Eric Dec, MD
- Ko PT, Kientz JA, Choe EK, Kay M, Landis CA, Watson NF. Consumer sleep technologies: a review of the landscape. J Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2015: v11, pg1455-1461.
- Robbins, R. CBS news, March 2018