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How to Measure Sleep Quality: Understanding the Basics

Many people suffer from sleep problems which are usually the reason behind other medical conditions. If you are not getting the right amount of sleep, you could have many physical and psychological imbalances.

Thus, people became interested in knowing how to measure sleep quality which was further enhanced ever since fitness tracker devices hit the market.

Fitness tracker devices are mostly smartwatches that offer the technology to track your sleep patterns and eventually help you sleep better. The manufacture of which has been patterned to the methods that have been used for several years wherein four aspects, namely light and deep sleep durations, number of arousals, and consistency of restfulness, are monitored in order to get a sleep quality score.

Nonetheless, sleep is a deeply personal thing, so even with those aspects, it is difficult to define what makes a good quality sleep. The important thing is that the methods, whether traditional or modern, can disclose if a person is getting a good night’s sleep or not.

How to Measure Sleep Quality: The Different Techniques

As denoted from above, these sleep monitoring gadgets we wear on our wrists have come into existence fairly recently, but sleep has been an interest of scientists long before that. There are specialist sleep centers with highly accurate tests that perhaps produce more reliable results about how one sleeps.

Traditional Methods

The clinical sleep tracking method is called polysomnography. Unlike a small wearable device, this test involves a lot of wires, electrodes, and tubes that are attached to the different parts of the body. At the end of the test, the results can reveal a lot about your sleep pattern and even diagnose problems like sleep apnea.

Here are what is measured by this test:


The EEG or Electroencephalogram monitors the brain activity to detect different stages of sleep.

Heart rate:

Through ECG or Electrocardiogram, your heart activity is monitored with wires attached to your chest.

Muscle Tension:

An EMG (Electromyogram) determines the relaxation and contraction of your muscles in your face and legs.

Eye Movement:

The EOG (Electroculogram) is attached above and below your eyes to monitor rapid eye movement during sleep.

Breathing or Oxygen Monitors:

Your blood oxygen levels and your breathing are also monitored while sleeping.

However, there are two scenarios of concern with this type of test. The results they produce are very accurate, but some argue that the patient’s sleep may be affected because he or she is hooked up to so many devices.

Also, this kind of test can only be conducted in a lab, and unlike a wearable sleep tracker, it cannot help monitor sleep on a daily basis.

Personal Trackers

Every piece of technology has shrunk in size over the decades that is why we now have fitness and sleep trackers to wear on our wrists. However, you cannot expect them to have as high accuracy as that in polysomnography, but many of such trackers have been found to produce reliable results over time.

These tiny devices are able to determine the quality of sleep because they contain sophisticated components that measure a variety of inputs like heart activity, movements, location, and skin conductivity.


Actigraphy is the most common way for these wearables to help determine sleep quality. Actigraphy is a non-intrusive mechanism for measuring movement. Simply put, it records your motions and that is what helps it determine the time you have been resting.


Accelerometers measure your heart rate and were once way too expensive. Today, these small chips can be found in many devices including fitness trackers. They basically convert movement into electrical signals and that is how they are able to measure our heartbeat.

The heart rate is very purposeful when it comes to inferring sleep cycles. That is because every sleep stage has a certain heart rate which helps these tracking devices identify the duration you have been asleep and the duration of deep sleep.


While accelerometers are cheap, they are not very reliable. This is why advanced personal trackers are employing newer, more reliable technologies to do that. Such can include optical sensors that are responsible for measuring blood flow or bioimpedance sensors that measure electrical activity through the skin.

Analyzing the Results

With the help of the speedy growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), such personal fitness trackers are now able to communicate with third-party applications and upload your fitness and sleep data on other platforms.

This allows you to have a deeper understanding of your sleep patterns and see how your sleep quality fares with average sleep quality scores.

Sleep Tracking Apps

If there is a mobile app that can make you look like a cat, why should not there be an app that measures your sleep? Many apps offer sleep monitoring solely through your smartphone which means that you no longer need to have an extra device.

The sleep monitor app will utilize your phone’s accelerometer to measure your movements during sleep as you place your phone under your pillow.

Unfortunately, while most of these apps are free, their output is not reliable. Such is owed to the fact that movements cannot reveal much about your sleep.

At most, they may only be able to estimate the duration you slept which means that in order for you to measure the quality of sleep, more information is required.

Final Conclusion

Traditional methods of determining the quality of sleep are still used today because of their level of accuracy. Nonetheless, what once was a process involving hundreds of small wires and sensors has now been reduced to a small band around your wrist.

These personal fitness trackers can measure your sleep’s quality by analyzing your movements and heart rate. Their accuracy is still debatable, but there is little doubt that with time, they will get even better.

Healthy sleeping is the key to having a healthy life, and sadly many people struggle with this. Perhaps with personal devices, it can get easier for a person to understand how to measure sleep quality and work on their sleeping habits to improve their health.



  1. Pingback: How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need: A Better Understanding of Sleep

  2. Hey very nice blog!


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