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Benefits of Sleep Tracking: The Quantified Self

Ever wonder about the quality of your sleep? Are you curious about your sleeping patterns? Well, there is no reason to stay in the dark because sleep tracking devices are no longer exclusive to medical professionals.

Nowadays, we can turn our bedrooms into “laboratories” and conduct our own “experiments” in order to gain insights into our sleeping habits and the quality of our sleep. In this article, we will talk about sleep tracking to help you understand the benefits of sleep tracking.

The Quantification of Our Existence

In the previous years, we have seen a high number of interesting mass-market gadgets that are designed to measure and evaluate our sleeping patterns. A number of different factors have contributed to this development—awareness and technological advancement among them. But, most importantly, the curiosity inherent to the human mammal.

Since the proliferation of big data, it isn’t just large corporations that are benefiting from them. Big data is the use of seemly innocuous and unsuspecting data to gain insights using statistics. Computers and apps take care of the number crunching and all we have to do is look at the information to find meaningful correlations. In the most basic essence, big data just means recording literally everything and then looking into it to find significant information.

Since even mid-range smartphones have more computing or processing power than the supercomputers of the 1980s, crunching huge sets of data no longer requires specialized hardware and even a smartphone can be used for such purposes. Such has resulted in data tracking apps to proliferate including sleep tracking apps and devices.

Sleep monitoring is part of a more significant phenomenon that has swept our collective psyche. This phenomenon is known as the quantified self which, as the name suggests, is the collection of data on ourselves in the hope of quantifying our existence in numerical terms. This can provide incredible insights into our subconscious mind as well as other habits and behavioral patterns.

For example, collecting and archiving our spending data and comparing it based on the time of the day, week, and month, and looking for a correlation between emotional state and spending habits, etc.

Benefits of Tracking Sleep

So, why even bother monitoring sleep? Well, despite the depth and the breadth of the human knowledge, which ranges from particle physics to gene splicing, we know surprisingly little about sleep. We do understand that sleep along with exercise and proper nutrition are the fundamental pillars of health.

The problem here is that a healthy diet and physical training both require conscious decisions on our part, whereas sleep is a bit elusive. We sleep for a certain number of hours in a day.

Some more than others, but we all sleep. So how do you achieve a good night’s rest? This is where sleep monitoring comes in. Tracking sleep can help us maneuver through a lot of these questions and might even lead to some answers.

How many hours do you sleep? We may know how much we slept last night and maybe a couple of nights before as well. But that’s not statistically or medically significant. How many hours did you sleep on average over the course of a year? How often did you feel the need to take a nap in the middle of the day? How often did you feel tired after waking up or refreshed for that matter? These are questions that we may not be able to answer on our own.

However, only when we can answer those questions, can we go on to figure out if we are sleeping enough or not and if the quality of our sleep is at par with what is medically acceptable.

That is because the qualitative and quantitative answers need to be recorded over a period long enough to be statistically significant. This kind of information is compelling as it is, but it offers incredible insights that can have an incredible impact on our overall long-term health.

Difference Between The Professional and Individual Sleep Monitoring

Realistically speaking, a home-based sleep monitoring system would never be as comprehensive, accurate and diagnostically detailed as a specialist sleep monitoring center would be. That is because the gadgets that we have access to are designed and manufactured for mass consumption. And, as we all know, value and simplicity are key aspects of the mass consumption design ethos.

A professional sleep monitoring system would measure the following:

  • Heart Rate – ECG measures electrical activity produced as the heat expands and contracts.
  • Brainwaves – EEG measures brain activity to determine the stage of the sleep we are in at the moment.
  • Breathing – Sensors below the nostrils look for breathing patterns and try to isolate any breathing abnormalities.
  • Eye Movement – Tracking eye movement is the best indication of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
  • Oxygen Levels – Measures oxygen-blood levels through a non-invasive method called pulse oximetry.

No consumer-grade sleep monitoring system will be able to track sleeping patterns in such a detailed manner. However, a common criticism of such a comprehensive system is that when strapped to so many wires and sensors, as well as being in a clinical environment, can affect our normal sleeping behavior.

But you should not be discouraged from tracking your sleep just because of the deficiencies of a home-based sleep monitoring system. The point is to understand the limitations and work within them rather than acting out in ignorance. As discussed earlier, a simple home-based system can provide incredible insights into our sleeping patterns, mainly due to big data. Just make sure your data sample is large enough to be statistically significant.

Empowerment

Sleep monitors can indeed empower us to take control of the previously uncontrollable things like our sleeping patterns. Through that, we will be able to work towards leading a more productive, healthy and fulfilling life. Hopefully, I have sufficiently espoused on the benefits of sleep tracking and encouraged you to take the leap and start tracking your sleep.

 
 

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  1. Pingback: Sleep Monitor Basis: Why Do We Do It?

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