Do Sleep Trackers Actually Improve Your Sleep?

Do Sleep Trackers Actually Improve Your Sleep?

Another one of my favorite topics – Sleep, or rather lack of it, through the Menopausal thingy!

I decided to splash out on one of those Sleep Trackers, but got so confused that I wrote an article trying to decipher what they are and how they work. Hope it helps, here goes…….

But what are the different types of dedicated sleep monitors?

Before you’re able to pick the right sleep monitor to watch over your nights, you need to know exactly what you want from one. The tech involved here is much more advanced than the smartphone apps that use the accelerometer to track movement under your pillow – and, as a result, things are much more accurate.

Older fitness trackers used wrist movement to track sleep, but now it’s all about heart rate monitoring – and companies like Fitbit and Withings are looking at your bpm during sleep to make assumptions not only about duration, but the sleep stage you’re in. That means logging the amounts of light, deep, REM and awake time, which can help decipher how you can go about feeling more rested.

As you can imagine, this is extremely handy for backing up how you feel when you wake up. If you’re feeling unrested, you can see if that matches up with the amount of deep sleep you logged, for example. Half-remember waking up a lot in the night? Check in on the wearable or companion app in the morning and you’ll be able to see just how many times you jolted awake, and what the total awake time totted up to.

Over time, depending on the ecosystem you buy into, these sleep reports should help you build a profile of your nights and give you an understanding of how much sleep you need, or things like when you need to wind down before bed.

However, this isn’t the only way to receive insights into your sleep stages – there are also sleep monitors that sit on your bedside table, using echolocation to track breathing patterns, as well as ones that slip under your mattress and use built-in sensors to get a grip on your sleep stages. There’s positive and negatives to all methods. so read on below to explore them in more detail…

What Do Sleep Trackers Monitor?

A wide variety of sleep trackers have hit the market, with more being released all the time. Many are wearable trackers that you can strap to your wrist. Others clip on your pillow or sit on your bedside table.

Features of these devices vary, but some common capabilities include:

  • Sleep duration: By tracking the time you’re inactive, the devices can record when you fall asleep at night and when you stir in the morning.
  • Sleep quality: Trackers can detect interrupted sleep, letting you know when you’re tossing and turning or waking during the night.
  • Sleep phases: Some tracking systems track the phases of your sleep and time your alarm to go off during a period when you’re sleeping less deeply. In theory, that makes it easier for you to rouse.
  • Environmental factors: Some devices record environmental factors like the amount of light or temperature in your bedroom.
  • Lifestyle factors: Some trackers prompt you to enter information about activities that can affect sleep, such as how much caffeine you’ve had, when you’ve eaten or whether your stress level is high.

Activity monitors may work better for exercise than for sleep

Activity trackers, such as FitBit, might help you see your general sleep patterns, but they are limited in their usefulness. Since they may not be as helpful as they promise, interpret what they tell you with a grain of salt—at least for now.

Sleep is complicated, and in order for an analysis to be as meaningful as possible, it must be comprehensive, as well as precise. A lab sleep study is the most thorough type of analysis. It involves a stay in an overnight facility, in which a technologist records multiple biological functions during sleep, such as brain wave activity, eye movement, muscle tone, heart rhythm, and breathing via electrodes and monitors placed on the head, chest, and legs.

An activity tracker, on the other hand, is a wearable digital device that measures just one thing (arm movement) with a detector called an accelerometer. So some argue that its analysis is not thorough enough. However, as anyone who has spent time in a sleep lab knows, sleeping in a bed that’s not actually your own in an unfamiliar environment may not be comfortable—and may not be representative of how you generally sleep at home. For that reason, the appeal of using a more basic device privately, in your own bed, for a fraction of the cost is understandable—especially if you are healthy and don’t suspect that you have any major sleep problems. Perhaps, for example, you simply want to know how much you sleep each night.

But if you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, right now, undergoing a full lab sleep study is still the gold standard. When you think about how difficult it is to diagnose a common sleep problem such as insomnia, it stands to reason that monitoring sleep isn’t as straightforward as, say, monitoring the number of steps that a person takes each day. Typical trackers aren’t yet sensitive or sophisticated enough to replace a doctor’s exam or diagnostic processes. What’s more, trackers could falsely suggest that a person with a sleep disorder does not have a problem, and discourage that person from seeking necessary medical attention.

That said, there should be more accurate options in the near future. The National Sleep Foundation has partnered with the Consumer Electronics Association and formed a “Wearable Sleep Monitoring Equipment Group” to help the development of sleep technology.


So all in all, your sleep tracker is probably going to tell you what you already know. Your either sleeping well or your not sleeping well. Where it does help is with how much sleep your getting and how much exercise your getting. Let’s remember that increased exercise should lead to increased sleep (but not always) so I think the sleep tracker is a very good tool for that reason alone.

If your thinking of buying you should check out this article.

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