Sleep is one of the most crucial factors that affects your health. If you aren’t getting enough high-quality sleep, then you are at an elevated risk for a large number of health conditions, including depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Until recently, there wasn’t a lot you could do to determine whether you were getting enough sleep. It was even harder to know if you were getting the quality sleep that your body and brain needs.
Those who could afford it would go to sleep clinics for testing. Those who didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars were out of luck.
Today, things are different. Practically anyone can afford to purchase a sleep wristband that helps them track their sleeping patterns and make adjustments that will improve the benefits that they get from every hour of sleep.
How Sleep Wristbands Work
Doctors use a lot of complicated equipment to measure sleep duration and quality in their labs. The best sleep trackers obviously can’t use the same equipment because they have to fit into smaller packages and budgets.
A sleep wristband, however, does use similar technology to help you track your sleep. The top models tend to use:
- Actigraphy to sense how much you move during the night (a lot of movement indicates poor sleep quality)
- Accelerometers to determine how quickly you move while asleep
- Optical sensors that measure your blood flow
- Bioimpedance sensors that can detect electrical activity in your skin
- Ballistocardiography to measure how hard your heart beats
Using an Activity and Sleep Tracker
Most fitness and sleep trackers collect information through their sensors. They can then connect to smartphones, tablets, or desktop computers so you can analyze the data. Software that comes with the sleep trackers will crunch the numbers so you can make sense of them and make changes in your life that will improve the quality of your sleep.
The types of information that you get from your wristband depends heavily on the kind of software that comes with it. Unless you’re a doctor, the raw data isn’t going to mean much to you. Tech companies know this, so they have developed software that makes their products more useful for the average person.
After using your sleep tracker for several days you can view information such as:
- How many hours you sleep each night and on average
- Whether you tend to wake up at certain hours
- How long it takes you to fall asleep at night
- Whether you wake up well rested in the morning
If you aren’t meeting your sleep requirements, then the software will point to the problems. At that point, you can either use the software to find solutions or you can do independent research to find options that you think will work well for you.
The key to getting more from a sleep tracker is putting the suggestions into practice. Simply knowing that you don’t get enough sleep doesn’t do your body and brain any good. You need to make real changes in your life so you can take advantage of benefits.
Since sleep trackers and their related programs can store days (and some times even weeks or months) of information, you can compare the length and quality of your sleep to determine whether your behavioral changes are working. If they are, then you should see improvements in the data. If you aren’t getting better sleep, then you will see that the data doesn’t change much. That means you need to take a different approach to really benefit from your wristband.
How Reliable Are Sleep Trackers?
If you’re going to make effective changes in your life, then you need accurate data that will help you measure your success. That forces you to think about how accurate and reliable sleep trackers really are.
The honest truth is that activity and sleep trackers are not as accurate as the equipment used in sleep labs. That is something you should expect, though, considering how much smaller and more affordable the wristbands are. You can’t expect a $100 device to do exactly the same job as $10,000 of equipment managed by a medical doctor.
That doesn’t mean that sleep trackers are worthless, though. Far from it. Although you can’t expect them to measure your sleep as accurately as professional equipment, you can use them to get general ideas of how well you sleep.
If your sleep tracker says you were asleep for six hours when you were really asleep for five hours and 45 minutes, you can still use that information to make better decisions about your behaviors. The best sleep trackers are also consistently inconsistent. In other words, your wristband will make the same mistake every night. While the data is 100 percent accurate, you can account for the discrepancies to make smart choices that will help you get better sleep.
Keep in mind that activity and sleep trackers are designed for healthy people to use. It’s about improving the quality of your sleep. If you have a serious sleep problem, then you should see a doctor. That’s not something a simple sleep tracker can solve for you.
What Else Do Sleep Trackers Do?
There is a lot of variety between sleep trackers, so it’s important for you to read the details of each one before you decide which one you want to buy. Since most of the best sleep wristbands have the same sensors that fitness devices use, though, they can often perform similar functions. With the right software, an activity and sleep tracker can do much more than just track your sleep. They can help you:
- Measure the quality of your exercise
- Track the distances you run, walk, and bike
- Keep a food log that gives you insight into your diet
If you want to make better use of a sleep tracker, just make sure it has the right sensors and software to match your needs.
Now that you know more about sleep trackers, review your options and find a device that’s right for you. There are plenty of models, so you can afford to be choosey.
Check out our review on the Fitbit One Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker (Click!)
Fitbit One Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker, Black
- Tracks steps, distance, calories burned and stairs climbed
- Monitor how long and how well you sleep
- Wakes you (and not your partner) with a silent alarm
- Syncs automatically to your computer or select smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth 4.0
- Set goals, view progress and earn badges
- Sync stats wirelessly and automatically to your computer and over 150 leading smartphones