Fitness Trackers & Sleep

Many fitness trackers measure not solely the number of steps you are taking day-after-day and the calories you burn, but additionally your sleep habits, with some trackers even claiming to measure the time you spend in each stage of sleep. Although it could be fun to pore over the data, sleep specialists say they’re skeptical of fitness wristbands’ accuracy in measuring sleep.

Popular trackers, such because the Fitbit Force, embody a sleep mode that aims to offer users with some insight into their shuteye, reminiscent of how lengthy they slept, and how many occasions they have been restless or woke up. Fitness trackers’ means to measure sleep typically comes from sensors called accelerometers, which detect a wearer’s movement, along with the speed and route of that motion. Experts say that whereas most trackers can in concept tell when an individual is awake versus asleep, they’re liable to errors. That’s as a result of although accelerometer screens your movement, “you move the identical amount whether you’re in deep sleep or lighter phases of sleep,” Montgomery-Downs said.

Experts fear there may be a hazard in customers placing too much belief in these gadgets to precisely monitor sleep, especially customers who’ve sleep disorders. The gold standard used to scientifically consider an individual’s sleep is a radical sleep lab test, referred to as polysomnography. Compared with this test, the accelerometer-based fitness trackers are “easy to trick,” Montgomery-Downs stated. In 2011 examine, Montgomery-Downs and colleagues in contrast data from a tracker to that of a polysomnography test.

They checked out adults who wore an older model of a tracker from Fitbit, to additionally undergo an in a single day sleep test, and found that the Fitbit overestimated the time participants have been asleep by 67 minutes, on common. Montgomery-Downs mentioned. The research additionally discovered that an autograph, one other gadget that also makes use of an accelerometer to monitor sleep and is generally used in sleep studies, overestimated sleep time by 43 minutes.

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Another examine, introduced at a sleep researchers’ meeting in November 2013, found the opposite effect in children — the Fitbit One underestimated how lengthy the kids were asleep, by 109 minutes. While these two research discovered reverse effects, they both show these gadgets present “misleading data,” stated examine researcher Dr. Lisa Meltzer, a sleep researcher at National Jewish Health hospital in Denver. Fitbit was not able to respond to those comments in time for publication of this text. However, their devices will not be usually marketed to youngsters.

Several specialists have been skeptical that fitness trackers can track sleep levels. Michael Scullin, a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology. Sleep scientists use a check called electroencephalography (EEG) to measure individuals’s brain waves whereas they’re sleeping to tell apart between the varied phases of non-REM sleep, Scullin stated. And to measure REM sleep requires further inputs in addition to brain waves, together with eye movements and muscle tone, Scullin said. The basis is one of the few fitness trackers in the marketplace that says it may track REM sleep in addition to light and deep sleep.

In response to the company, the system is ready to do this as a result of it includes a heart-charge monitor along with an accelerometer, stated Damon Miller, head of marketing at Basis. The corporate had their system examined in sleep labs to search out what measures, including heart price, correlate with completely different phases of sleep, Miller stated. Miller said. But “we feel we are in good proximity for a client product,” Miller mentioned.

Sleep researchers said they would like to see the studies carried out by Basis, which have up to now not been printed. Scullin stated it is good that Basis is looking at extra than just movement to assess sleep. For individuals without sleep disorders, utilizing a fitness monitor to track sleep isn’t going to hurt or help them, Montgomery-Downs mentioned.

But for someone with a sleep disorder, tracking sleep with one of those monitors might give them a false reassurance, she stated. People with undetected sleep issues can be a danger to themselves or others, if for instance, they drive to sleepy, Montgomery-Downs stated. And sleep trackers with solely an accelerometer can’t present much perception into the standard of sleep, Montgomery-Downs stated. For instance, an individual with sleep apnea could cease respiration 300 instances a night time, however this would not be detected. Montgomery-Downs said, however they may still be comparatively still for eight hours. Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Original article on LiveScience.