Sleep tracking is ubiquitous, mostly because many fitness trackers now offer some form of sleep data apart from activity levels, food logs, and heart rate.
Sleep plays a huge role in nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and tracking it makes sense. Study upon study has associated better sleep with lower risks of heart problems, better athletic performance, even higher libido.
We get it: sleep is important. Sleep trackers have been used in some form for decades, and they are good at providing insight into your sleep patterns over time. For example, they can tell you how much total time you’re likely sleeping. But are those trackers giving you the full skinny on your sleep?
These devices don’t directly measure sleep quality, but do track movement, which is an acceptable stand-in for sleep, since most of us tend to be still when sleeping.
The trackers can pick up on things like whether it’s taking you a long time to fall asleep, or if you’re waking earlier than optimal, but they’re not so good at determining sleep stage. They can track whether you’re asleep or not, but not things like how long it takes you to get into REM sleep, during which you dream, or pre-REM sleep, during which your body prepares for that deeper stage.
REM sleep is crucial, since it’s required for a number of restorative processes in the brain and body. The National Sleep Foundation notes that all of the phases of sleep are needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of growth and appetite hormones.
One concern is that the devices could be overestimating sleep when your body is still and your heart rate slows, although you’re not yet asleep. Still, they do offer a good way to gain an overall idea of how often you wake up at night, and how long it takes you to fall asleep, and this data can help you, say, set an earlier bedtime or keep your bedroom a few degrees cooler.
When interpreting the tracking data, it’s important not to overweight it. If you’re getting your 7–9 hours of sleep a night and feel refreshed and energized throughout the day, then concerns raised by your tracking device may not be clinically relevant.
At the same time, if you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep and still feel fatigued, you may have the kinds of sleep problems a tracker wouldn’t see. These could include medical conditions like heart disease, thyroid issues, or sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor in order to review possible reasons, so you can go back to getting the sleep you need
For more information, please read:
Is There Really Any Benefit to Tracking Your Sleep? | Men’s Health