Getting a good night’s sleep might seem like an elusive feat, but fortunately, a sleep tracker promises to make it easier.
Sleep-tracking apps and gadgets measure the number of hours you sleep and help you determine the quality of your rest. Some trackers can also provide data about your sleep quality, which can be useful if you experience restless sleep on a daily basis.
Even though a tracker may improve your sleep quality and provide a few other benefits, the scientific community has questioned its accuracy. To determine whether sleep trackers can actually help you sleep better, let’s take an in-depth look at how they work.
What Does a Sleep Tracker Measure?
The best sleep tracker can track your sleep duration as well as a few other aspects, such as the quality of your sleep and how much time you spend in each of the sleep stages. Though the features might vary depending on the tracker, here are the common ones:
- Sleep length: Sleep trackers use movement as an indicator of whether you’re asleep. When you’re inactive, the tracker assumes you’re sleeping and keeps tabs on the duration.
- Sleep quality: Because sleep trackers detect movement throughout the night, they can assess whether you slept peacefully or woke up sporadically.
- Sleep cycles: Some sleep trackers can measure how much time you spend in each sleep stage. With this information, the tracker might schedule your alarm to go off when you’re in a lighter sleep stage so that you can wake up easily.
- Sleep environment: Some trackers record your sleep environment to assess how external factors, such as light and temperature, impact your sleep.
- Lifestyle: Many factors can affect the way you sleep, including physical activity, diet, and stress levels. Over the course of the day, some sleep trackers may measure what you eat, the calories you burn, and your heart rate to understand how your lifestyle impacts your sleep quality.
Are Sleep Trackers Accurate?
Since sleep trackers measure your movement to decide whether or not you’re asleep, the biggest criticism about these devices is that they’re not always accurate. For instance, even if you’re lying in bed and reading, your tracker may assume you’re asleep because you’re not moving as much. As a result, the sleep monitor may overestimate the time you spend asleep by anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour.
Another drawback of sleep trackers is that the data might be inaccurate if you suffer from medical conditions. While most people’s heart rates start to slow down when they enter the deeper sleep stages, the results might differ among those who periodically experience irregular heartbeats.
Unlike medical sleep studies, sleep trackers alone aren’t a sound basis for evaluating whether you’re experiencing a sleep disorder. However, they can be useful for recognizing patterns and might make it easier for you to adopt healthy sleep hygiene practices.
Another benefit of sleep trackers is that you can get a general idea of how long you sleep. Most Americans struggle to get the recommended 8 hours every night. What’s worse is that people tend to overestimate the amount of sleep they get by nearly an hour. But by tracking your sleep, you may get a better insight into how long you’re sleeping and whether it’s close to the recommended average.
Other Practical Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
While sleep trackers can help you assess how much you sleep, they’re not necessarily effective at improving sleep quality. Here are some ways to lock in a better night’s sleep.
Invest in high-quality essentials
More often than not, an uncomfortable mattress is the source of your sleepless nights. A memory foam mattress is a good choice because it contours to your body and is designed to alleviate aches and pains.
When shopping for a new bed, take mattress sizes into account to pick one that’s right for the size of your room.
Another important consideration is your bed frame. Opt for an adjustable bed frame if you’re looking for personalized comfort. Not only does it come with multiple comfort levels, but it can also improve blood circulation and reduce the effects of heartburn and indigestion.
Avoid screens before bed
Being glued to your phones, computers, or tablets can take a toll on your sleep. These devices all emit a blue glow, which can suppress the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.
To ensure you get an uninterrupted night’s sleep, try to avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off your devices and spend some time unwinding with relaxing activities, such as meditation, reading, or yoga.
Establish a sleep schedule
Consistency is crucial for improving the quality of your sleep. If you struggle to fall asleep every night or suffer from insomnia, try to establish a routine that you can stick to. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
Setting a sleep schedule is an effective way to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, and it can also help you get better sleep eventually.
Sleep trackers are a great way to measure your sleep duration and understand your habits. However, if you do have concerns about your sleep quality, consider speaking to a sleep specialist.