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The best sleep trackers are those that not only monitor sleep but also track a range of other metrics, including heart rate, breathing rate, and even nightly blood oxygen saturation.
Using a sleep tracker may help a person understand their sleeping behavior and detect trends in waking. They can also share these data with a doctor.
Sleep trackers often use the same instrument that smartphones use to track movement, known as an accelerometer. In combination with a specific algorithm, this may provide an overview of a person’s sleep patterns.
Some wearable devices also have heart rate monitors, which the manufacturers claim add to the effectiveness of sleep tracking.
However, although sleep trackers can collect a lot of information about a person’s sleep habits, they do not measure sleep directly. Instead, they often measure inactivity as a way of estimating sleep duration.
Sleep trackers could be useful for people to collect data on their sleeping behavior and share it with their doctor — especially if they have a condition that disturbs their sleep. Such conditions could be physical or neurological in nature. Some mental health conditions, such as depression, may also affect someone’s sleep.
The study of sleep, also known as polysomnography, is a comprehensive test that healthcare professionals use to diagnose sleep disorders. Sleep studies record a person’s:
- brain waves
- blood oxygen levels
- heart rate
- breathing rate
- eye and leg movements
In addition to helping healthcare professionals diagnose sleep disorders, sleep studies may aid them in creating or adjusting a treatment plan once a person has a diagnosis.
Individuals might wish to consider the following factors when choosing a sleep tracker:
- whether the tracker is wearable or sits under the mattress in the bed
- the type of data the device collects, such as heart rate, sleep duration, and movement
- comfort level during sleep
- battery life
- whether a person can use analytic tools
- whether the device has an alarm or smart alarm option
Someone looking to buy a sleep tracker should first work out what they need and then find a sleep tracker that is suitable for them. Typically, the more features that sleep trackers have, the more expensive they tend to be.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based.
The Beautyrest Sleeptracker sits underneath the mattress. This product uses artificial intelligence that analyzes and monitors a person’s breathing and heart rate, body movement, and wakefulness.
A person can review their sleep data on the app. The app includes individual sleep coaching and detects the optimal time for a person to wake up.
The Beautyrest Sleeptracker is available for purchase online.
A person places the Sleep Tracking Mat underneath their mattress, on their usual sleeping side. It detects breathing disturbances, analyzes the sleep cycle, tracks heart rate, and detects whether a person is snoring.
People can review their sleep data in the Health Mate app, which is available on iOS and Android.
The Withings Sleep Tracking Mat is available for purchase online.
This Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a fitness tracker that also monitors REM sleep and nightly blood oxygen saturation levels. The device records the data on the app, which allows people to monitor their sleep patterns and fitness levels easily.
The manufacturer states that this activity tracker is safe for use in water and has up to 7 days of battery life.
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is available for purchase online.
This activity tracker monitors a person’s heart rate and nightly blood oxygen saturation levels. A person can view their sleep data on the watch itself, but the Fitbit app provides a more detailed overview.
The Fitbit Versa 3 scores the user’s sleep quality so that they can identify a relationship between what they were doing and the effect it had on their sleep. The manufacturer states that this product has a battery life of at least 6 days.
The Fitbit Versa 3 is available for purchase online.
Sleep and meditation apps
Alongside a tracker and app to gauge different sleep behaviors, a person could also use other sleep apps, such as those focusing on meditation, to help themselves get to sleep.
Using a sleep tracker may help a person identify trends in their sleep behavior, potentially helping them determine ways to prevent nighttime waking.
There are many possible causes of sleep disorders, including some physical conditions that can cause people to wake easily and frequently. People with chronic conditions that cause nighttime waking may find it useful to collect data on their sleep.
These conditions include:
- heart disease
- lung disease
- sleep apnea, though a home sleep study might be preferable in these cases
- kidney disease
- underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid
Some mental health conditions may disturb sleep and, in turn, worsen any other symptoms that a person experiences.
Therefore, a person may wish to track how many sleep disturbances they have and share this information with a doctor. The amount and quality of sleep that a person gets can affect the following mental health conditions:
Tracking sleep behavior may give a doctor more insight into how often a person wakes and the quality of sleep they are getting.
Certain neurological conditions may cause disturbances in sleeping habits. Tracking sleep behavior trends may help a doctor monitor the underlying condition in more detail.
Some neurological conditions that affect sleep include:
A person might consider contacting a doctor if they get insufficient or low quality sleep. Sleep disturbances could indicate an underlying health condition or exacerbate other symptoms a person may have.
If a person uses a sleep tracker, they may find it helpful to bring the data to their doctor appointment, as this may help the doctor decide what tests to run or which treatments to recommend.
All of the data from sleep trackers should be available on the relevant app on the person’s phone.
Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about sleep trackers.
How accurate are sleep trackers?
Different sleep trackers vary in how they work and what metrics they track, but they typically collect data and turn them into interpretable information that a person can review, usually via a smartphone app. The individual can use the data to help determine sleeping habits, but the results may not be as accurate as those that a professional sleep study can provide.
Can a partner or pet influence the results of a sleep tracker?
If a sleep tracking device is wearable, a partner or pet should not influence the results.
If the device is nonwearable, there are often settings to account for partners. As long as pets do not interfere with a person’s breathing or heart rate during sleep, they should have no effect on the results.
Is it possible for two people to track their sleep at the same time?
Yes. Some under-mattress sleep trackers include an additional pad for the other side of a shared bed so that they can track two people’s sleeping habits.
How can a person clean their sleep tracker?
Individuals should always check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning their tracker. These devices are generally not machine washable. Some wearable devices have removable straps that make cleaning easier.
Additionally, some fitness trackers that have built-in sleep-tracking capabilities may have a level of waterproofing. However, to avoid damaging the device, a person should refer to the manufacturer’s device care guide.
Sleep trackers come in the form of wearable devices or tracking pads that sit underneath a person’s mattress to track their sleep habits.
Research suggests that although sleep trackers are not as accurate as sleep studies, these devices could be valid tools for recording sleep behavior. It may be useful for people experiencing sleep issues to share their sleep data with a healthcare professional.