Measuring sleep is like measuring temperature and blood pressure.
— , Pittmed
A successful night of sleep cannot be measured solely by the number of hours in bed. When it comes to sleep, quality is just as important as quantity. Through the use of technology, there are new digital devices available that claim to help understand the sleep patterns of their users. Just like an activity tracker that notes how many steps you’ve taken each day or how many calories you’ve burned, sleep trackers shine some light during your most idle moments. Sleep trackers are a widespread technology within the quantified self movement.
Sleep trackers record many variables, including:
- Sleep duration: They track and record the time we fall asleep and when we start waking up in the morning
- Sleep quality: Trackers are sensitive to movement and can detect disruptions in our sleep
- Sleep phases: Some trackers can also record your sleep phases and find the best moment to wake you up which is during a period when sleep is less deep
- Environmental factors: More complex trackers can take environmental factors such as light and temperature into consideration and make suggestions accordingly to ensure the best sleep environment
- Lifestyle factors: Trackers are also customizable wherein the user can encode information such as daily activities, amount of caffeine taken, and the like, which help in analyzing sleep
Sleep trackers combine your sleep patterns and other sleep-related information and provide changes and suggestions based on the data. Sleep trackers typically come in the form of a smartphone app or as wearable technology like a watch or a ring. Wearable sleep trackers are equipped with a sensor that tracks movement or the lack thereof, while apps rely on the smartphones’ accelerometer to measure our body movement while we sleep. Some sleep trackers are more advanced and have a heart rate tracking feature or a thermostat to gain more reliable data.
It is important to note that sleep trackers can only study our sleep on a superficial and limited level. They can only provide analyses based on the data they receive. But being aware of the trends in our sleep patterns allows us to make adjustments, which may improve sleep quality and quantity.