Activity or fitness trackers have become a part of our modern lifestyles. They are brilliant for monitoring our activity, exercise, food intake and weight. I love them! But…
When it comes to monitoring sleep, it seems a lot of us are left confused. We think we’ve had a great night’s sleep when we wake up, but the tracker shows a different story; which can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety around sleep.
So, why is this?
It’s due to a couple of factors:
- The limited technology trackers use to monitor sleep and
- Not completely understanding how sleep works.
The technology of monitoring your sleep:
If you want to have an accurate picture of how well you’re sleeping, you need to spend a night in a sleep clinic, where you would be connected to the various pieces of kit via electrodes placed on your scalp and body. They would monitor the following:
Breathing rate and flow
Sleep trackers such as a Fitbit can monitor your sleep via it’s heart rate tracker and motion sensors but they are the least accurate means of assessing your sleep.
How your sleep works:
Quite a few people I meet are concerned that they’re not getting enough deep sleep. Some think, when we close our eyes, we drift off into a deep sleep, dream a bit then wake up after 7-8 hours.
Sleep is a more more complex than that. We actually sleep in 90 minute cycles and in those 90 minute cycles there are 4 stages of sleep.
Awake/Very Light – which can be the dropping-off stage or the micro-awakenings that take place during the night.
REM – Rapid Eye Movement
In your first two cycles of the night, you’ll experience more Deep Sleep than REM sleep, then REM sleep will take over as Deep Sleep tapers off.
So how much of each type of sleep on average should you be getting to get a good night’s sleep?
Awake/Very Light – 5%
Light Sleep – 50%
Deep Sleep – 20%
REM Sleep – 25%
Even though deep sleep is very important for our health, we actually only need 20% of our sleep per night in this phase to get the benefits.
Why is your tracker monitor telling a different story to how you feel when you wake up?
These devices cram an awful lot of tech into a small space, and to make them affordable, they are not going to be the same quality and standard as those used by sleep clinics, so heart rate and movement monitoring won’t be as accurate.
They are great to use as a guide, but don’t take the stats at face value. What it boils down to is how you feel when you wake up in the morning – refreshed and energised or tired and wanting to hit the snooze button. The best way to monitor your sleep is to keep a sleep diary. Not sure what this is- just ask me!