Should you be using a sleep tracker?

More and more of us are relying on tech to track our sleep health, but is this a good way to go?

From our heart health to our step count, many of us have embraced the rise of tracking technology. And sleep trackers are quickly becoming one of the most popular niches in this area, giving users a clearer idea of how well (or how poorly) they’re sleeping each night.

Today, sleep tracker usage is at an all-time high. By 2019, one in ten of us used trackers while we slept, and this number has grown since. Multiple brands have been jumping on the tracker bandwagon, from obvious tech giants like Apple to the likes of The Pokémon Company, who announced the launch of Pokémon Sleep in 2020 – the follow-up to Pokémon Go which rewards users for good sleep.

But how much do we really need sleep trackers, and is it possible that they’re actually doing more harm than good when it comes to our overall sleep health?

The benefits of using a sleep tracker

It’s easy to see why sleep trackers have become so popularity. After all, sleep has always been something of a mystery, and getting a visual representation of how well you slept can be satisfying.

Sleep trackers can tell you everything from how long you slept and how many times you woke up, to how much you tossed and turned in your sleep. This kind of information can be useful when making positive changes to your sleep habits. It offers a consistent source of information that doesn’t require any effort to receive on the user’s part. All of this can contribute to a wider understanding of your health, lifestyle and wellbeing.

What are the issues involved in tracking our sleep?

The information we gather from sleep trackers can be interesting, but unless you plan to act on this information, it may not actually be helpful. In fact, numerous reports have cited the emergence of anxiety related to sleep trackers. For example, if you woke up feeling fine, but your sleep tracker confirmed that you’d only had five hours of quality sleep the night before, it may prompt you to feel more tired and lethargic than if you had simply remained ignorant.

Sleep trackers must be used as a starting point; a place to gain information which you can then use to improve your sleep habits or even start a conversation with your doctor about your sleep concerns. Otherwise, all you’re doing is giving yourself more to worry about.

On top of this, trackers can be expensive, and may not always be comfortable for users to wear while they sleep.

Aim for a healthy schedule you can stick to

There are both advantages and concerns surrounding the use of sleep trackers, but one thing’s for sure: a healthy sleep schedule is paramount whether you’re using a tracker or not. Simply tracking your current sleep patterns without making any effort to improve your sleep quality won’t help you feel more rested come morning.

It’s important to try and go to sleep and wake up at around the same time every day, in order to give your body a routine it can get used to. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and you should incorporate some time in the evening to wind down away from screens, whether through reading, yoga or meditation.

You should also avoid caffeine and excess alcohol in the run up to bedtime, and ensure that your bedroom is both cool and dark. These simple changes can help you improve the overall quality of your sleep, whether you track it or not.

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