Sleep doctors want you to be aware of these 6 things when tracking your sleep
Experts warn that the current capabilities of sleep tracking have limitations. There is a lack of guidance from the scientific sleep community, leading to confusion and controversy. Doctors argue that more guidelines are needed to better utilize personal sleep-tracking devices for clinical use and research.
Questions arise regarding what information these devices can provide about sleep and health, and whether sleep tracking can actually lead to improvement. Sleep experts aim to share their knowledge and address these concerns.
Sleep trackers cannot be classified as medical devices
Tracking sleep is advantageous for assessing sleep wellness, but the devices utilized for tracking lack regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raising concerns about their accuracy.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) states that for medical purposes, these devices need FDA clearance in order to utilize the data obtained from them.
While sleep trackers offer awareness about one’s sleep patterns, it is premature to conclude the presence of sleep disorders solely based on their results.
These trackers do not provide accurate numbers as they are unable to distinguish between periods of immobility with wakefulness fluctuations and fully asleep phases.
When a person wakes up in the middle of the night and remains lying in bed, these devices consider them to be asleep.
In some cases, the devices overestimate the numbers, leading to inaccuracies. Additionally, trackers without heart rate or other sensors cannot capture sleep-wake cycles.
Trackers promote the use of technology before going to bed
Wearing a device or utilizing a sleep-tracking app can potentially prompt individuals to engage with a mobile phone or other screened device before bedtime. This drawback arises due to the disruptive effect of phones and screen lights on the ability to fall asleep easily.
If a phone or another device is in close proximity while in bed for sleep-tracking purposes, there is an increased likelihood of being disturbed by incoming text messages and emails when attempting to drift off. Creating an optimal bedroom environment free from devices is vital for establishing a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere conducive to a healthy sleep routine
Sleep trackers can assist in identifying specific sleep patterns
Sleep trackers actively aid in tracking your sleep patterns. During busy schedules and with unhealthy habits that result in insufficient sleep, these trackers can be incredibly helpful.
For individuals experiencing sleep deprivation, these trackers provide insights into the amount of sleep they are missing.
Sleep trackers fall short of identifying sleep disorders and health issues
Although these devices offer information for personal assistance at home, they cannot provide a doctor-level diagnosis of sleep conditions.
Strict observation is necessary for accurate sleep diagnosis and for addressing other health concerns.
These trackers are not suitable for generating reports on sleep apnea, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.
Use of sleep trackers may exacerbate sleep struggles for certain individuals
Spending more time in bed due to the desire to sleep longer, as prompted by the trackers, can actually exacerbate insomnia.
It is counterintuitive, as a behavioral treatment for chronic insomnia involves reducing time spent in bed trying to sleep.
Excessive time in bed without sleeping can condition the brain to associate the bed with unsuccessful sleep attempts, further worsening the problem.
Additionally, overemphasis on “sleep numbers” from trackers can lead to anxiety, which interferes with sleep. Relying solely on sleep trackers and neglecting to consult a doctor about sleep troubles or fatigue can be counterproductive for sleep health.
Sleep trackers are not yet capable of replacing in-office tests, sleep studies, and medical histories used by doctors to screen and diagnose sleep problems and disorders.
Training healthcare practitioners on how to interpret and communicate wearable data to patients is crucial as it has become a common occurrence.