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These days there’s an app or device that can track everything we do. Whether it be telling us how many steps we take in a day, advising us on our calorie intake or even calculating how long we slept – there’s an app for everything!

But what if these sleep trackers are actually disturbing our sleep more than they are improving them? Whether it’s a Fitbit, Apple Watch or just a sleep tracker on your phone, these devices will tell us exactly how many hours sleep we get every night as well as how restless we were (down to minutes we wasted being awake/restless). Yet it’s all this data that might make our sleep worse, as we become worried and obsessed with our sleep patterns.

Can Sleep Trackers Actually Interrupt Your Sleep?Or at least that’s what a study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found. Researchers at the Rush University in Chicago have highlighted three case studies from their study of people’s sleep when using sleep tracking devices and this is what they found during two of these studies:

1: 39-Year Old Man

The first case study listed a 39-year old man who was gifted a sleep tracking device by his girlfriend after he was complaining of continuously getting a bad night’s sleep. This was mainly because of a job that caused him to stress from time-to-time. However, the sleep tracker far from helped his sleeping woes as now presented with the data, and a goal of getting 8 hours sleep every night, he found that he became frustrated when he did not reach this 8-hour goal. Similarly, he would go to bed at night feeling the pressure of having to meet this 8-hour sleeping goal, which started giving him anxiety when he failed. All-in-all, the sleep tracker was not providing the harmonious atmosphere needed for a good night’s sleep.

2: 27-Year Old Woman

The second case study looked at a 27-year old woman who regularly checked her sleep tracker’s data to see how well she slept. The more her tracker told her that she had slept poorly, the more that she herself felt unrefreshed when she woke in the morning. However, when she slept the night in the laboratory and had her sleep measured professionally via a polysomnography, which measures your heart, brainwaves and other indicators during her sleep, it was found that she actually had a great night’s sleep including a lot of deep sleep.

On being told this information, the woman was flummoxed and wouldn’t believe her Fitbit was inaccurate, she actually doubted the professional equipment. This showed how much faith we put into these devices being wholly accurate, when in-reality, they won’t be 100% accurate. Indeed, these devices have difficulty knowing the difference between light and deep sleep – some might count you reading in bed as sleep when you’re awake.

The study didn’t want to stop people from using these trackers, though. In fact, it stated that sleep trackers can be useful to see how much sleep you get in general. The problem comes in when we rely too much on these trackers and believe everything they say. Then you become stressed without reason, making your sleep worse! If you yourself use a sleep tracker, try not to get too hung-up on the details. As long as you are feeling refreshed in yourself, you will be getting enough sleep. 

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