How accurate are sleep trackers? The answer depends on who is asking the question. If you are asking a sleep disorder specialist, they will almost always use clinical testing equipment such as sleep monitors to see if their patients are getting adequate rest. Their testing is quite rigorous and very thorough. However, sleep disorder specialists may not be able to answer the question: how accurate are sleep trackers?
Most sleep trackers operate using the META profile, which is shown below. The META profile shows a fairly normal pattern of sleep cycles on the day of each recording session. The sleep stages are shown in a progressive sequence, from the first (rest) to the eighth (headstand). The scale is normally horizontal; however, some sleep chart products display a vertical representation. Each of the sleep stages has been labeled with a “stage number.” Most sleep trackers show the percentage of energy spent in each stage during the night.
Unfortunately, not all sleep trackers show these stages of sleep. Most commercially available devices require a minimum of two sleep patterns to be accumulated during a week. These sleep patterns must be collected on the days when the body is completely rested. In other words, even when you are in deep sleep, you must have at least one waking hours in a week. Because sleep patterns cannot be easily changed once they have been established, these devices must rely on your memory to recall previous sleeping sessions.
This may seem like a troublesome requirement, but it is actually an advantage. By requiring participants to remember prior sleeping routines, most sleep trackers encourage participants to develop a workout routine that includes aerobic exercise and weight training. Some fitness enthusiasts report greater increases in physical performance and calorie expenditure after engaging in a fitness program that includes wearable technology such as sleep tracking monitors. This increased fitness is partially responsible for the decreased body fat percentages reported by many sleep tracking participants.
Heart rate monitors, another popular type of sleep tracking device, provide information about heart rates during specific stages of sleep. However, because heart rate monitor devices require participants to strap their monitors to their bodies, they cannot incorporate respiration patterns. Fortunately, some sleep trackers are now including respiration monitors that can provide this vital information. These allow the sleep trackers to determine how many times participants’ hearts beat during their sleeps.
The third factor in determining how accurate are sleep trackers is the battery life of the devices themselves. Most are designed to be used for a single night. As a result, the battery life of the unit needs to be sufficient to enable users to awaken from their sleep without difficulty. Most sleep trackers provide at least one full night of continuous use, which will allow users to maximize their battery life.
Additional factors that affect battery life include the actual intensity of the sleep tracker’s activities. The more intensive the sleep tracker’s activities, the more it will need to charge its battery life during the night. Some models, however, offer optional battery life extending capabilities. It is important to check the battery life of a sleep tracker carefully and select one that can take a big charge. The extra charge may not only be unnecessary but may also reduce the accuracy of the readings and may also affect the actual quality of the sleep.
Knowing how accurate sleep trackers are will help you determine whether to invest in one or not. Trackers that do not incorporate sleep stage diaries allow users to track only the sleep cycle stages. As a result, users have to manually enter data into the sleep trackers each night. While this may be alright for some, if the number of entering data is too tedious or requires too much computer attention, the lack of manual entry may be rendered useless. In addition, if the software package lacks any other features that would make tracking easier, the user might end up wasting his or her time with the software package.