10% of Americans have Insomnia so it really is no wonder that more people are turning to technology to help us sleep better. But looking at your sleep stats doesn’t always mean that you know how to translate that into real world solutions. Whether they track breathing, heart rate, or movement, most sleep trackers show very similar results. What sleep stages were you in and how long were you experiencing each one? How many times did you wake up? Were you restless last night? Other than just noting that you woke up five times, how can you better understand your results and how can you use it to get better sleep?
We’ve put together a few of the most common results and dissected what they mean for your sleep.
Some trackers, like Fitbit, will help you track your sleep stages. What are sleep stages? They are the cycles of sleep that we naturally go through each night.The sleep cycles are Light Sleep, Deep Sleep, and REM. During Light Sleep, it’s easy to wake up. You may dream in this stage but the dreams wont be very intense. This is the time when your body is preparing for sleep. Your body temperature is dropping ad your heart rate slows. Typically, people spend the least amount of time in this stage. Deep Sleep can also be called Delta Sleep, Slow Wave Sleep, or N3. In Deep Sleep you become harder to wake up and if you did get woken up, you’d feel disoriented. This is when your body starts to repair itself. Cells regenerate, your organs do all their work of detoxifying your body, and you build muscle tissue. You stop moving around so much during this stage as you prepare to go into REM. REM, or rapid eye movement, is the deepest stage of sleep. It usually happens about 90 minutes after falling asleep. You don’t spend a ton of time in REM but this is when you can experience intense dreams, an accelerated heart rate, and rapid breathing. For most of the night you alternate between REM and Deep Sleep.
So what does this mean?
Your body cycles through each stage through the night. It’s common for your results to show a pretty diversified graph. Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes. If you see that you are spending too much time in the Light Sleep stage then its time to start looking at what factors into that. Is your sleep space not quiet enough? Is your down comforter keeping you too warm? Is your hotel pillow too firm compared to your favorite, soft pillow at home? Examine what’s keeping you from going through the sleep cycles.
Most trackers will have a setting to track how many times you wake up in the night. Pretty straight forward, this is going to let you see how many times in the night you wake up either on your own or due to something waking you.
So what does this mean?
Interrupted sleep is worse than short sleep.Your body can adapt to getting less sleep but it has a much more difficult time adjusting to interruptions. When studied, both short sleepers and interrupted sleepers both reported drops in positive moods on the first night. However, as the study went on, the short sleepers mood level didn’t continue to drop night after night while the interrupted sleeper’s did.
If your tracker is showing that you wake up often, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing full interrupted sleep but if you believe that you are and you have the mood levels to prove it then you may want to speak to a doctor.
Trackers also let you know how much sleep you managed to get. Children need the most at 10-11 hours, teens need around 9 and adults fall within a 7-9 hour range.
If you don’t get enough sleep you’re dealing with more than just being grumpy and lethargic. It decreases productivity, creativity, and focus. It can also cause higher blood pressure, higher rates of diabetes, and heart attacks.
So what does it mean?
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, don’t just brush it off. Speak with a doctor, get a sleep coach (yep, that’s a thing), or examine environmental factors that may be preventing you from sleeping.
Sleep trackers are useful tools that help you keep track of how you sleep each night. One of the most beneficial aspects may very well be the ability to look objectively at your sleeping habits in order to realize reoccurring themes. Maybe you have a more restless night on Sundays because you are already planning your Monday morning. By more or less creating a sleep diary, you can start to target the things that prevent you from getting a restorative sleep. At the end of the day, you should trust your body over your tracker. In fact, scientists have found a new sleep disorder called Orthosomnia, a disorder where you become obsessed with “correct” sleep. Trackers are turning into a new source of anxiety and people are keeping themselves awake worrying about their sleep.
So use your tracker wisely, trust what your body is telling you, and use that comfy mattress pad to your advantage.