Do Wearable Sleep Trackers Really Work?

Brian Chen, lead technology writer for the New York Times, recently wrote an enlightening, but ultimately sobering, piece on the efficacy of sleep trackers and apps. A few key takeaways from the article:

  1. After 2 weeks of tracking his sleep data with an Apple Watch and the sleep tracking app AutoSleep, Chen concluded that the metrics simply confirmed what he already knew about his sleep patterns while offering no practical solutions for improving his slumber. In fact, the frustration he felt with the seemingly pointless exercise mirrored the results of recent studies conducted by Rush University and Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
  2. Some specialists believe that tracking sleep data can actually have an adverse effect on health through a sort of unhealthy confirmation bias cycle (ie. my tracker says I didn’t sleep well, therefore I should be tired and cranky).
  3. Wearable devices aren’t generally precise enough to measure deep sleep and REM sleep, the latter of which is helpful for repairing emotional and psychological networks.
  4. If you use a sleep tracker, view the data over time to spot trends rather than obsessing on the nightly feedback. If you truly want to get a better night’s sleep, the best advice is to wake up at the same time every day, make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, avoid alcohol before bed and don’t check your email or social media before falling asleep.

As for how the ReST bed fits into this equation, we’re mostly in agreement with Chen. Consumer wearable sleep trackers just aren’t as accurate as sleep clinic lab equipment (face and neck sensors, brain wave monitoring, etc) and the collected data isn’t as always as actionable without some level of professional analysis. However, ReST moves beyond the inherent limitations of wearables in a few unique ways. 

First, our sleep quality monitor (SQM) isn’t a “wearable”, but rather collects its data from the entire body’s contact with the surface of the bed. This allows the software to monitor some aspects of sleep, like respiration, with accuracy comparable to a sleep clinic. It also avoids the annoyance of having to wear anything!

Additionally, the bed and software are able to create a “pressure map movie” of your body position throughout the night which provides more practical and actionable information than a standard wearable. For example, if you know you spend 80% of the night on your side, then you know you’ll benefit from a side-sleeper pillow. Or, if you have a map of your pressure points, you can select the ReST bed mode (automatic, manual, auto position) that best applies to your body and unique sleep patterns. Finally, SQM data can also be used to validate that the bed is actually solving a problem for you.

Chen’s piece is an interesting counterpoint to the popular trend of relying too much on biohacking and you should check out the full article here: The Sad Truth About Sleep-Tracking Devices and Apps

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