We all understand how a good night sleep is vital for our overall health. In today’s ever-busy world, many people don’t get quality sleep. Sacrificing sleep to achieve certain goals or failing to practice good sleep hygiene can be detrimental to one’s health. And some people don’t even notice this. That’s where a sleep tracking device comes in.

What Are Sleep Trackers?

If you haven’t heard, sleep trackers are devices that monitor how you sleep. They can be either wearable devices, bedside gadgets, or smartphone apps. While the technology behind sleep trackers is always advancing, medical experts are skeptical as to the accuracy of these devices.

Admittedly, tracking your sleep, just like tracking exercise or your food consumption, creates a mindful awareness of what you’re doing. Sleep deprivation has been blamed for fatal road accidents, obesity, stress, and a dent in economic productivity. The rise of sleep trackers come with the promise to improve sleep and discover sleep disorders and symptoms.
But, do sleep trackers really work? Here are the pros and cons of using sleep tracking devices.

The Pros and Cons of Sleep-Tracking Devices

Sleep wearables are handy if you have sleep problems. They capture information that would otherwise be difficult to measure. Most of us have poor sleep hygiene such as using the phone in bed. These gadgets may help you break the habit. For instance, a wearable gadget will guide you to stop electronic use two hours before bedtime.

Mobile Apps

There are dozens of mobile apps that aim to improve your sleep patterns. Some use techniques such as nature sounds, calming visual graphics, recordings from hypnotists, and calming music. These techniques are easy to use and you don’t require any other piece of hardware. These apps use your phone’s built-in accelerometer to track your movement in bed while asleep. All you need to do is place your phone on your mattress or under the pillow and make sure it has enough charge.

Cons of Using Mobile Apps

Accuracy is a major drawback when using standalone apps. For one, if you sleep with your partner, the phone can’t distinguish your partner’s movements from your movements. Likewise, a phone app may respond differently on a foam mattress and a mattress with springs. There’s also the issue of noise and light emission from your smartphone, which is known to disrupt sleep. Moreover, sleeping with your phone under the pillow or on your bedside exposes you to harmful radiation which could develop into health issues such as cancer in the long term.

Wearable Sleep Trackers

Fitbit, Xiaomi, Apple Watch, and Garmin dominate the market of sleep tracking wearables. Most wearable devices are worn as a band or watch around the wrists. They could also be worn as a pendant around the neck. Wearable trackers also measure heart rate, noise, body movement, caloric intake, and step count. These devices may be more accurate than mobile apps since they are attached to your body.

Cons of Using Sleep Wearables

There are no guidelines on how the data from sleep wearables should be interpreted. The lack of a standard guideline may lead to incorrect data analysis, depending on who deciphers the information. Additionally, low priced devices only use the accelerometer sensor to measure sleep movement. However, movement doesn’t accurately reflect sleep and is, therefore, not the best parameter to use. For more accuracy, you’d have to buy a more expensive device such as the Fitbit Charge HR. Other disadvantages include:

  • Discomfort to the wearer.
  • Losing the device.
  • Limited battery life.

Smart Rings

With technological advancements, you no longer have to wear a gadget around your wrist – if you don’t want to. Smart rings are miniature devices using the same technology to track your sleep. They also measure your heart rate, movement, and pulse. These devices offer improved functionality despite their small size.

Cons of Smart Rings

They come with a processor and battery which might not be as safe due to harmful emissions. These gadgets are expensive and may only be used by those who can afford them. Like any other electronic device, a tiny natural sleep movement may be mistaken for wakefulness or interrupted sleep. What’s more, if you lie still in bed and lower your heart with deep breathing techniques while still awake, the device will think you’re asleep.

Bedding Technology

There are mattresses, mattress covers, and pillows that promise to offer more data on your sleep pattern. There also gadgets like Nokia Sleep that you place under your mattress to monitor your sleep cycles, snoring, heart rate, and record your breathing movements.

Cons of Using Bedding Technology

These devices use sensors which experts say may raise privacy concerns. While they are less obtrusive than other devices, their accuracy could still be questionable. On the other hand, if you’re an athlete and you travel a lot, you can easily misplace these gadgets. Plus, they can be quite cumbersome.

Takeaway Message

The majority of these wearables collect data based on movement. So, if a person passes out drunk, the device might register this as deep sleep. Like earlier mentioned, the accuracy of sleep products is questionable. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wear them. Sleep trackers will measure how long you sleep, if you snore, and how much time you spend in each stage of a sleep cycle. That being said, it’s important to listen to your body and practice simple routines such as banning all electronic devices from the bedroom, getting regular exercises, and setting a consistent bedtime and wake time.

All images by Pixabay


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