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Does Sleep Tracking Tech Really Help You Sleep?

Sleep technology apps

Can all of the apps and gadgets really help you get better sleep? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Apps and technology tools that help us track everything about our lives are the newest craze and one of the things everyone seems to want to track is their sleep.   But is it possible to get accurate sleep data from nothing more than your smartphone and some software?  Let’s look at what these tools offer and see if the help they provide lives up to the hype.

The most popular kinds of apps for monitoring sleep are the sleep trackers.  These apps use the capabilities built into your smartphone like the motion sensor or accelerometer to monitor how you move while you are sleeping and then use that data to make some assumptions about what those movements mean.  When you wake up, you have a report that explains specific details about how you slept including how much time you spent asleep, how much time you spent in deep sleep, and how many times you woke up over the course of the night.  Sounds kind of like magic, right?

Well, in some ways it is or at least magical thinking.  See, one of the main downfalls of these types of apps is that they have to make some really big assumptions about you and your sleep in order to provide you with that helpful report in the morning.  Most apps require you to sleep with your phone under your pillow in order to monitor your movements but they don’t take into account the fact that you may not be sleeping alone.  They also assume you are a healthy sleeper and do not suffer from any sleep disorder.   The primary problem is that the app isn’t actually measuring anything about your sleep, it is only measuring your movements and then using broad assumptions to determine what those movements mean.

You can invest in something like a FitBit which is a tool you wear on your wrist that allows you to measure several things about yourself, including sleep.  But the FitBit uses actigraphy, which is a way of measuring your movements during sleep.  This method is more accurate than relying on your smartphones sensor and does remove the possibility of your partner mucking up your data, but it still doesn’t actually gather actual comprehensive data about your sleep.  Though this data is not medically defining, it can be beneficial to use it when discussing the need for more formal testing with your doctor.  But remember, it still doesn’t measure anything related to your actual sleep.

So, while the more advanced tech like the FitBit may be beneficial in providing some initial information that you can use to discuss your sleep concerns with your doctor, these types of sleep apps can’t get a sleep disorder diagnosed or help you determine what is causing you to wake up 34 times at night.  For this, you will need to work with your doctor to determine if more advanced sleep testing is needed and if it is, visit a sleep center for a more comprehensive, diagnostic sleep study.

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Steve N.


San Diego, CA

"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"


Anthea S.


Tempe, AZ

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."


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Scottsdale, AZ