Sleep is a crucial, important and often neglected aspect to our everyday lives.
In fact, the average human spends close to a third of their lives asleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult requires approximately 7-9 hours1 of quality sleep a night.
You might be getting those 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but are they quality hours?
Do you often feel like you wake up feeling exhausted, almost as if you didn’t get any sleep?
There is a chance that your sleep is being interrupted and may be preventing you from achieving that much needed quality sleep.
Enter the new health trend; sleep tracking devices and apps.
Fitbit. Sleepscore Max. Beauty Rest Sleep Tracker. Apple Watch.
These are all examples of some of the many devices and apps that are commonly used to monitor sleeping habits.
Now let’s back up a moment.
What exactly is a sleep tracking device?
A sleep tracker is a device that tracks and monitors how much time you spend asleep each night and how restful that sleep was.
These apps and trackers monitor the sound and movement around you and can generate sleep reports to inform you on how your sleep was and how long you were asleep for.
Some trackers and apps are even capable of analyzing the amount of time you spend in each sleep stage and can help inform your of any potential sleep issues you may have, such as sleep apnea.
In fact, approximately 10% of all American adults2 use some form of sleep tracking device or app nightly to help monitor their sleeping patterns.
In a society filled with stress and constant on-the-go days, the idea of being able to monitor the quality of your shut eye gives people a sense of control.
However, is this real control or are these devices only giving users a false sense of control?
In fact, most sleep specialists and doctors are not fans of the sleep tracking devices. Many specialists have been advising against the use of these nifty tracking devices.
The concept seems so useful so why would they recommend against the tracker?
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why.
Have you ever woken up feeling completely refreshed and rested, only to find out that according to your tracker, your total amount of hours asleep was way less than you thought originally?
Before you start analyzing and overthinking your shut eye, take a look at your devices sensitivity settings.
Some sleep trackers can have a tendency of being too sensitive when monitoring your sleep. Many commercial trackers are known to have an increased sensitivity to slight movements and sounds.
The basic concept behind the technology of the tracker, is that you move less when you sleep. Therefore, if there is a lot of nightly movement. your tracker will report that it was a poorer sleep.
In other words, you could be wide awake and lying perfectly still in bed and the tracker would report it as if you were asleep. Thus causing it to be more difficult to get an accurate reading on your sleep patterns.
‘Sleep hygiene’ is a term that is being used more and more these days.
Commonly, it refers to your sleeping environment and your pre-sleep habits. Good sleep hygiene is one of the most effective and is considered to be the most go-to treatment for insomnia3.
A first piece of advice that all sleep specialists recommend is to ditch the screen.
It is recommended that you turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Prior to falling asleep, your body produces higher levels of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Device screens (cell phone, tablet, tv, computer, etc.) project a blue light that can suppress the production of melatonin.
When fiddling with your sleep tracker or app, the blue light from the screen can get in the way and prevent melatonin production, resulting in an increased difficulty to fall asleep.
Orthosomnia is a new term that was established in a 2017 sleep study that was published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
This term is used to describe the unhealthy obsession of achieving the perfect sleep. This obsession of hitting the perfect amount sleep, would actually cause anxiety and fear of not hitting their goal amount.
Thus resulting in an increase of difficulty falling asleep.
The study found that people were taking too much validation from their sleep reports and would assume that there was something wrong with them if they had a slight variance in their report.
This chase towards sleep perfection, can lead to increased anxiety and stress about your sleep. Which in turn, can prevent you from getting quality sleep.
Note the vicious cycle.
Your device tells you that you have poor sleep. You stay up all night stressing about getting that perfect sleep. Since you are stressing, you can’t sleep or have a restless sleep. Resulting in poor sleep reports.
It’s a never ending loop.
Now, this doesn’t mean that learning about your sleeping habits is a bad thing.
Learning about your sleep patterns in an accurate and controlled method can be a good thing. It can help you learn about why you don’t feel rested in the morning and can flag and potential problems.
Sleep specialists recommend that you should do a sleep study before you reach for the tracking device in the store. This is the most accurate way to monitor sleep patterns and learn about any sleep troubles that you may have.
If you are worried about the quality of your sleep, here are a few things you can do at home before you get too concerned:
Now, what do you think?
Do you think that your sleep tracker is helpful… or do you think people should stay away from them?
We want to know!
Comment below and let us know what you think.
1 National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Duration Recommendations: Methodology and Results Summary. https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(15)00015-7/abstract
2 Othosomnia: Are Some Patients Taking the Quantified Self Too Far? http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=30955
3 Healthy Sleep Habits- American Alliance for Healthy Sleep: http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits