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How Your Sleep Tracker Works

The lack of sleep or sleep deprivation is one of the most common problems of many people. It is often caused by too much work and stress which leads to poor health. Everybody knows that getting enough sleep is good for your health.

There are many researchers that have proven this claim, recommending 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Having this long hour of slumber every night can improve concentration, reaction time, and memory.

It also boosts your mood and creativity as well as your immune system. It decreases the chance of accidents and risk of diabetes and heart problems.

Because of these benefits and increasing awareness, more and more people are investing in a sleep tracker. But, do sleep trackers work? Are they accurate and reliable? If they really are, how do they do it?

Before, your options for assessing your sleep were limited. All you can possibly do is to keep a sleep diary, record yourself sleeping, or ask someone about your sleep.

That is why ever since personal sleep trackers were invented, people have become curious about the quality of their sleep.

Both those who are physically fit and those who are experiencing sleep disorders are enticed to try this device that is often found in fitness trackers.

Sleep trackers are exactly what the name says it is. It tracks your sleep, giving you an insight of how long you sleep every night, including the hours of your deep and light sleep. However, this definition is somewhat generic.

If you are going to spend two-thirds of your life wearing a sleep tracker to ensure better sleep, you have to understand which among the brands today work best. One way to find out is how they work.

The Science Behind Sleep Trackers: Explained

Actigraphy is the key measuring tool of personal sleep trackers that are worn. It records the movement of a person wearing the sleep tracker through a measuring device called accelerometer.

The idea is this: There are a certain amount of movements that correspond to the body being awake as well as a certain amount of movements or being still that corresponds to the body is asleep.

The actigraphy is seen by experts as equally important as Polysomnography. In fact, it has been used by sleep experts for more than 30 years to measure sleep.

While Polysomnography is more accurate and is called the standard of sleep measurement, actigraphy has its own advantages.

One of the issues in using Polysomnography is that the patient is more prone to not sleep normally, having hooked up to multiple machines with around 20 electrodes on their head.

This puts actigraphy on the upper hand. The device is wearable and less expensive. Thus, people can comfortably track their sleep for a week and sleep naturally compared to two or more nights in a clinic.

Some questions still remain, though. Is the wrist actigraphy in sleep trackers accurate? What reliable information can it give?

Accuracy of Wrist Actigraphy in Personal Sleep Trackers

Researchers, Martin and Hakim have looked at how wrist actigraphy is useful and accurate for sleep assessment. In 2011, they found out that wrist actigraphy is indeed useful for assessing sleep in a natural environment, as opposed to clinical settings as predicted in the past. But they also advise not to rely on this device solely.

The research also found out that actigraphy is accurate in estimating the total time of sleep, sleep percentage, and total time of after sleep. But of course, there is an obvious limitation:  Mistaking being motionless for being asleep, which often happens to those who suffer from insomnia.


So, do sleep trackers work? The answer is definitely yes. However, one cannot solely rely on it, especially if that person has sleeping disorders. The wrist actigraphy has limitations and is not enough to replace Polysomnography.

But, it is indeed more convenient, affordable, and accurate in many ways. It is very useful, something those who want to keep track of their sleep should have.



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