THESE DAYS, it seems everyone has a Fitbit or something like it to track their steps and their general activity. But the new "in" thing is tracking and monitoring sleep as more people begin to understand the crucial role sleep plays in overall health and performance.
How Does a Fitness Tracker Measure Sleep?
Fitness trackers on the market use a few different assessments to determine how well you are sleeping. The most common devices have accelerometers to measure your movement, as well as its direction and speed. They claim that the data collected tells you how long you are asleep, as well as your sleep stages and how often you wake up.
Some wearable devices also include a heart rate monitor, which also provides some data about the degree of relaxation you reach at various points throughout the night.
In addition to wearable devices, which need to be taken off to be charged and can be irritating to wear when sleeping, there are other types of sleep monitors. Verlo's new SmartWake sleep monitor slides under your mattress. You simply place the sensor under your mattress, plug it in and forget about it.
Featuring the latest in sleep technology, SmartWake monitors your:
- heart rate
- respiratory rate
This data is communicated via Bluetooth to your synced smartphone where the SmartWake app provides a personalized report that identifies your:
- sleep cycles (REM, light & deep)
- time to fall asleep
- times out of bed
- tips for improving your sleep quality
Are the Fitness Trackers’ Measurements Accurate?
Many experts criticize the use of these devices for sleep, saying that they can give you a very unclear picture of your actual sleep habits. For example, studies from 2011 and 2013 showed that fitness trackers seriously overestimated the amount of sleep adults get, and significantly underestimated the minutes of sleep children get by almost two hours.
Experts argue that simply measuring movement cannot distinguish between lighter and heavier stages of sleep, since movement is about the same for both. For an accurate measurement of sleep, you need to measure heart rate and breathing, as well as movement, which none of the wearable fitness trackers can do – although Verlo's SmartWake monitor does measure these parameters.
A 2017 study found that SmartWake's clinically-proven technology was 92% accurate when compared with polysomnography, the gold standard of sleep studies.
How Can This Information Help My Sleep?
The best the fitness bracelet can do is to confirm that you got plenty of good, quality sleep. Many people in the field of sleep disorders worry that the fitness trackers, in overestimating adult sleep, may give wearers with sleep issues a false sense of security about their sleep health.
Unlike fitness bracelets, SmartWake reports if your heart rate varies from your normal range, and alerts you to any interruptions in breathing during the night. Knowing this information could encourage you to seek medical attention as it could indicate health issues, such as sleep apnea.
SmartWake also allows you to enter sleep diary information, such as whether you had alcohol, caffeine or exercise during the day, basically making you more aware of how your habits could be affecting your sleep.
Should You Use a Fitness Tracker to Monitor Your Sleep?
In general, using a fitness bracelet to measure sleep may seem like a nice additional feature for the device. but they can’t really make you sleep better.
If you really want insight into your sleep habits, purchase a sleep monitor that provides reliable and comprehensive data, or arrange for a sleep study.