Sleep Trackers: Types of Sleep Trackers & How They Work

Many people struggle to get an adequate amount of quality sleep. Using a sleep tracker to understand what happens when you close your eyes at night can be a great way to learn more about your sleep habits and start on a path to better overall health.

What Are Sleep Trackers?

Sleep trackers are devices that monitor how much sleep you are getting. While the information these devices gather is not as accurate as what you would get from a professional sleep study, they can provide valuable insight and are improving in quality all the time.

How Do Sleep Trackers Work?

These devices work in a variety of different ways, and different ones may be more or less suitable for you depending on what type of information you need. Some use actigraphy, driven by a chip known as an accelerometer, which tracks how much movement you make. This is probably the least accurate method, but it has the advantage of being cheap, and it can still give you important information.

Heart rate is a more accurate way of tracking sleep and sleep quality. Your heart rate varies according to the stage of sleep you are in. These types of trackers may be placed under the mattress or worn on the wrist.

Types of Sleep Trackers

Sleep trackers are basically either bed-based or wearable. Sleep tracking may be a feature offered on wearable fitness trackers. There are also separate devices designed only for the single function of tracking your sleep and various vital signs while you are sleeping. Another option is using sleeping tracking apps on your mobile device.

Sleep Tracker Mobile Apps

Sleep tracker apps can be good for getting an idea of your basic patterns of going to bed and getting up, but they are less reliable when it comes to determining when during those periods you are actually sleeping. Still, they can be an economical way to get started on understanding more about your sleep.

Wearable Sleep Trackers

The Whoop Band and Apple Watch are both types of fitness trackers that include features that monitor your sleep as do the Fitbit and Garmin. The multipurpose nature of these devices is a big advantage if you are already using them for your fitness tracking. Then you have the Oura Ring, the sole purpose for tracking sleep. They can monitor such things as breathing and heart rate.

Bed-Based Sleep Trackers

These trackers are generally placed either on your bedside table or are attached to your mattress in some way. The latter are more accurate than the former since they can track your vital signs, including your breathing and heart rate, instead of just movement. They also offer some attractive additional features. For example, the S+ by ResMed can help identify environmental factors that are affecting your sleep. Additional features include warming your bed, special lighting and music, and smart alarms that are based on your sleep cycle.

Are sleep trackers worth it? 

Quality sleep is so important to your overall health that it is absolutely worth making sure that you are getting enough of it, particularly if you are suffering from unexplained fatigue or think you may have a condition such as sleep apnea. While they may not be able to deliver information that is as precise as what you would get from a sleep study, they can be a vital tool in providing preliminary data about the nature of your sleep issues.

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