Is Your Sleep Tracker Ruining Your Sleep?

Louise Carr
Is Your Sleep Tracker Ruining Your Sleep?

You love your sleep...so much so that you religiously use and check your sleep tracker to see if you’re getting enough shut-eye. But does your sleep tracker actually help you get better sleep quality? Research shows that trying to get a better night’s rest by using a sleep tracker could actually be achieving the opposite – resulting in worse sleep than ever.

Is Your Sleep Tracker Lying to You?

Many sleep tracker fans are seeking medical help for sleep problems that don’t exist, says Dr. Kelly Baron from the University of Utah. Her 2017 sleep tracker report talks of a growing number of people who believe they are not sleeping enough, or suffering from insomnia, based on what their sleep tracker tells them. Which would be fine - except, according to Dr. Baron, the data are not always accurate.

She describes these people as “sleep perfectionists”, striving for the best possible sleep in order to be in the best shape for the day. But sleep trackers are no match for actual human analysis, according to scientists.

If you are seriously suffering from insomnia or other sleep dysfunction, time spent in a sleep lab is the only way to accurately discover what’s stopping you from dropping off. Sleep is complicated, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, activity monitors may be more effective for exercise than for sleep. A sleep lab assessment records many different functions, including brain wave activity, muscle tone, breathing, and heart rhythm – something your average sleep tracker will not do.

Burning the Midnight Oil

We’ve got apps for everything. Turning on the lights, ordering food, buying clothes, tracking fitness. But should you turn your precious sleep into another set of data you need to constantly analyze? Obsessively looking at your sleep tracker and seeing how well you’re sleeping could increase anxiety, which contributes to insomnia. Using a sleep tracker puts excess focus on your sleep, often creating panic unnecessarily – particularly when you also read about how bad sleep deprivation is for your health.

Also, and this is no surprise, checking your phone at night could be keeping you awake. Studies such as this 2017 report from The University of Houston say the blue light from your screen actually contributes to the increasing levels of sleep dysfunction that people are reporting.

So, should you switch off your sleep tracker for good? Not necessarily. Sleep trackers could still be worthwhile if you just want to get a handle on when you are sleeping or when your sleep suffers...for example, after having a late dinner. However, don’t let a sleep tracker take over your nightly slumber. Understanding what a sleep tracker can – and cannot – do for you is the key to using this developing technology for your benefit.

Image Credit: Kinga Cichewicz