S3:E20 | Should I use a sleep tracker?
Sleep trackers have become so popular in recent years. I get asked a lot - ‘should I use a sleep tracker?’ so I’m going to tell you my thoughts.
Let’s get into it.
Hello and welcome back to the Sleep Seekers Podcast. I’m your host Emma Ashford.
If you haven’t met me before, I am a sleep coach, insomnia therapist and general sleep enthusiast. I love sleep so much I founded Sleep Seekers which is all about promoting and restoring good quality, natural sleep.
I have been working with sleep now for about 12 years and in that time one of the things I have seen change a lot is the amount of people using sleep trackers - usually on the fitbit or the apple watch. Especially now they tend to come as standard on the device.
Sometimes people will come to me with the data from their device, sometimes they will be wondering whether they should use one and sometimes people will be really worried by what they are seeing from the device.
So, in this episode I thought I would talk about sleep trackers and the question I get a lot … should I use a sleep tracker?
The first thing to say here, the most important thing is that sleep trackers cannot accurately measure your sleep. The only way to accurately measure your sleep and importantly the various stages of your sleep is for your brain activity to be measured in a specialist sleep clinic - something that most of us will never experience.
What ‘sleep trackers’ actually measure is movement or in some cases heart rate. So this is not an accurate measure of sleep and it certainly cannot discriminate between the different stages of sleep.
So, when you are sat on the sofa watching TV, your device may consider you asleep. Or if you are moving around in your sleep, it might consider you awake.
I remember when I first got my fitbit for Christmas, I went to the local pantomime and the clapping went on forever at the end and I got a little celebration on my fitbit to tell me I had achieved 10k steps, when really I had been sat on my bum the whole time.
I use my fitbit during the day obviously as a watch but also as a rough tracker of my steps and movement, but then I take it off at night. I don’t believe it has anything particularly useful to tell me about my sleep.
So, I certainly don’t recommend using a sleep tracker if you are looking for an accurate reading on your sleep.
For some people, sleep trackers can become a real problem and for some people they come with a big warning. Tracking sleep can become obsessive, it can make you worry about your sleep and it can create what is called the ‘nocebo effect’ - which means that the expectation of side effects leads them to be experienced.
Essentially, tracking your sleep can lead to you to have more problems with your sleep and can even lead to sleep problems. They can lead you to feeling more pressured to sleep, make you worry about your sleep or overthink it - all of which are likely to actually interfere with your sleep and lead you to actually get less of it.
I have worked with a number of people where we could definitely say that the sleep tracking became very unhealthy and contributed to the sleep problem or insomnia issue.
So, if you have a tendency towards worry, anxiety or overthinking I would strongly suggest steering clear of sleep trackers.
That said, there can be a place for some people with sleep tracking sometimes.
Anything that reminds you of the importance of good sleep habits is a good thing. A sleep tracker might do this for some people in the same way that it can remind you to get your 10k steps.
If you are wanting to work on getting to bed on time or some other habit they can also be a good reminder or a way to work on creating this habit.
Some people love the feedback and reminders that the trackers provide to live a more healthy and intentional life in amongst all the busyness of every day life.
So they can have a place and if it works for you then great! My only caution would be that the measurement of sleep is often not very accurate and just be aware that for some people they cause far more problems than they solve.
What I would much prefer and what I encourage everyone to do is to become your own sleep tracker. You don’t need to rely on a device to tell you how well you have slept, you can base it on how you feel. And most of the time there is no need to have an accurate, blow by blow account of your sleep - the best sleep is the sleep you barely think twice about.
The best way you can become your own sleep tracker is to track the quantity and the quality of your sleep each morning and make any notes based on positive or negative triggers to a good or bad night, dreams, disturbances in the night or how rested you feel. The wind down journal is designed to make this easy for you to do … my aim for the wind down journal was always for you to be intentional about your wind down and your sleep and then for you to become your own sleep tracker and identify what works well for you and what doesn’t. I will leave a link to the wind down journal in the show notes or just go to sleepseekers.academy/store and you will find it.
If you are worried about your sleep, you might think about keeping a sleep diary with more detailed information. I often ask people to complete one of these when they begin working with me. And if you would like to discuss your sleep or your sleep diary with me then I would recommend booking a sleep assessment session.
Becoming your own sleep tracker is the best thing you could do for yourself - it allows you to get to know yourself, your sleep and your unique needs when it comes to your sleep and your wind down time.
So that is my views on sleep trackers - I would love to know what you think. Do you use a sleep tracker? Do you like it? Have sleep trackers caused you problems in the past?
I will be interested to see where this trend goes in the future.
THAT'S ALL FROM ME TODAY. I HOPE TO SEE YOU NEXT TIME ON THE SLEEP SEEKERS PODCAST AND UNTIL THEN, HAVE A GREAT DAY AND I WISH YOU GREAT SLEEP.
THE WIND DOWN JOURNAL | CLICK HERE →
THE SLEEP OPTIMISER PROGRAMME | CLICK HERE →
ALL SLEEP SEEKERS PROGRAMMES | CLICK HERE →
BOOK A SLEEP ASSESSMENT | CLICK HERE →
MORE ABOUT EMMA | CLICK HERE →
SLEEP OPTIMISER PROGRAMME | CLICK HERE →
WIND DOWN JOURNAL | CLICK HERE →