The idea of tracking our sleeping habits in order to pinpoint potential problems is not new, however, until recently, these types of studies were confined to controlled test environments where patients are monitored by doctors overnight. Advances in smartphone technology mean that anyone with a modern phone has access to a range of sleep tracking apps for mere dollars, or in some cases for free.
What’s the Point of Sleep Tracking Apps?
These apps can provide a number of useful statistics about your unique sleeping habits, such as how many times you awoke during the night, how long you slept, how long it takes you to fall asleep, etc. This information can be incredibly helpful in determining factors that may be preventing you from getting enough restful sleep.
Without a sleep tracking app, you’d have to guess as to why you’re waking up every morning still feeling tired, and chances are you wouldn’t be able to figure out what the exact reason is. The results provided from a few nights worth of tracking your sleep using an app can tell you a variety of different things. Are you waking up many times throughout the night, tossing and turning, or taking a long time to fall asleep? These may be signs that it’s time to look for a mattress that’s designed for your specific sleeping needs.
3 Sleep Tracking Apps to Consider
Sleepbot is a free app for android and iOS devices that provides several different options for tracking your sleeping patterns. This app can be boiled down to three main functions: tracking movement, recording sound, and waking you up with a “smart alarm” that tries to only wake you up when you are in a lighter stage of sleep.
The movement detection and audio recording can be useful for people looking to track sleepwalking and sleeptalking, however, in a lot of cases they are not enough to accurately track specific sleep patterns. If you sleep with a partner or in a noisy environment you may experience difficulty tracking sleep with sound and movement detection alone.
The biggest appeal of this app is the smart alarm, which claims to make it easier to wake up by only going off when you are at a light point in your sleep cycle. One potential drawback to this feature is that you won’t be able to tell the exact time that the alarm will go off, you are only able to set the alarm to activate within a 30-minute window.
Fitbit Sleep Tracker
One of the most exciting features of the Fitbit wearable activity tracker is its ability to track sleep patterns more accurately than many standalone smartphone apps. This comes at a price, these gadgets range from $50 to over $100. However, for people looking to more accurately track sleep patterns, they are an attractive option.
The Fitbit sleep tracking app uses the motion of the wearable wristband to help determine sleep patterns, and since it is connected in contact with your body it isn’t as susceptible to interference as using just a smartphone’s sensors.
The Fitbit sleep tracking app can tell you what time you went to bed, when you woke up, what periods of time you were restless at night and the total amount of quality sleep that you had each night. These are all useful statistics for determining how to best optimize your sleeping arrangement.
SleepCycle is a smart alarm/sleep tracking app available for $0.99 on the iOS app store. This app is similar to Sleepbot, except in lieu of audio recording it has a more configurable smart alarm system. This system works by waking you up using the science of sleep cycles in order to determine to best time for your body to exit its sleeping state.
This app is especially useful for its easy-to-comprehend sleep graph, which shows a nightly overview of time spent awake, sleeping, or in a state of deep sleep. Like Sleepbot, the alarm function on this app allows users to choose a 30-minute time window in which the alarm will go off, and the app will determine the best time within that window to wake you up based on when you went to bed and other sleep pattern statistics that it gathers overnight.
What to do With the Data From a Sleep Tracking App
Once you’ve used your sleep tracking app for a few days, you should have gathered enough data to determine a baseline for your average sleep patterns. This is important information to remember, so make sure to either write it down or take a screenshot of the app from your smartphone.
The key to determining what factors may be disrupting sleep using data from sleep tracking apps is to look for consistent deviations from your baseline. For instance, if you average 7 hours of sleep per night and you experience a period wherein you only sleep 6 hours a night, it’s a sign that you need to examine the data closer to determine a few possible causes.
One of the most common causes of inconsistent sleep patterns is using a mattress that doesn’t provide proper support for your particular body type. If your sleep tracking app detects lots of restlessness and movement throughout the night or if you have an inability to fall into a deep sleep, your mattress could very likely be to blame.
If you feel like your sleep is adversely affecting your health, it’s important that you visit a doctor as soon as possible and that you don’t solely rely on sleep tracking apps for information about your sleep health. There are a variety of conditions that can cause restlessness, some of which are quite serious. That being said, these apps are a great way to track and monitor how well you are sleeping on a regular basis.