When you want to make a change — health or otherwise — it is a lot easier to gauge your progress if you know the starting line. If your goal is to maintain a healthy weight, you start by weighing yourself. If you need to lower your blood pressure, you begin by measuring your systolic and diastolic numbers. And when you want to improve your sleep, the first step is tracking your nightly sleep patterns.
Studies have shown that some of the most devastating long-term health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and dementia can be prevented or managed by lifestyle changes earlier in life and are deeply rooted in deficiencies with sleep. Sleep trackers can empower people with the right information and can provide supportive, personalised guidance to encourage healthier behaviors, therefore enabling a shift towards a preventive approach where health is owned and led by the individual.
How can a sleep tracker help?
It can help you identify which areas of sleep need improvement.
Your sleep can be impacted by a number of different elements, which when tracked can help you answer deeper questions about what is impacting the overall quality of your sleep.
- Total Sleep: “Did you get enough sleep?”
- Efficiency: “How much of your time in bed did you actually spend sleeping?”
- Restfulness: “Did you toss and turn?”
- REM Sleep: “Did you get enough REM sleep?”
- Deep Sleep: “Did you get enough deep sleep?”
- Latency: “How quickly did you fall asleep?”
- Timing: “When are you getting to sleep? Are you going to bed according to your body’s natural circadian rhythm?”
Once you start tracking your sleep, you will begin to spot trends in your sleep data. Maybe it is taking you a long time to fall asleep or perhaps you are waking more frequently throughout the night than is considered typical. A sleep tracker can provide meaningful analytics on each of the different elements, making it easy to identify which areas need improvement.
It can tell you how much time you actually need to spend in bed.
How much time do you need to spend in bed to sleep for seven-to-nine hours? If you are in bed for nine hours, how much time are you actually spending asleep? Metrics like total sleep time and wake after sleep onset, or the amount of time spent awake at night, are easily trackable. Once you get the data, you can optimise your bedtime routine so that you are setting aside the time required to practice a proper wind down routine (that could be dimming the lights, taking a warm bath, doing a meditation or practicing some breathwork) and to get into bed at a time that enables you to hit your nightly sleep-duration goal.
It can show you how your daytime behaviors affect your nightly sleep.
Even if you are getting into bed with plenty of time to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, you might be making some crucial mistakes during the day that affect the quality of your sleep. Achieving healthy sleep is a 24-hour process. That afternoon cup of coffee may be tempting, but it is best to have your last cup of coffee at least six hours before you are ready for bed. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, and while it can help you fall asleep initially, it can also inhibit sleep after a few hours of being in your system, waking you up at night and decreasing your quality of sleep – all metrics that are trackable. Studies show that habits like exercise intensity and timing, blue light exposure and stress management throughout the day also play critical roles in our ability to wind down peacefully and stay asleep through the night.
It can help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
The regularity of your sleep/wake patterns matters to your overall rest and the benefits you reap from your sleep time. Going to bed at the same time every day helps set your body’s internal clock so that it becomes programmed to expect sleep at certain times. And when your body’s clock is set, you tend to get tired at the same time every night and fall asleep easier. So as much as possible, once you identify a bedtime and wake-up time that help you hit your duration goal, try to stick to the same bedtimes and wake-up times – even on the weekends.
Do you feel great when you sleep from around 10pm to about 6am but feel tired if you sleep from 11pm to 6amn in the morning? Do you get better quality of sleep on days you exercise or when the bedroom is cooler? How does that glass of wine affect your sleep quality? Do you wake up often if you eat dinner too close to bedtime? Does breathwork help you fall asleep faster? This is the type of data that a sleep tracker will provide to help you reflect on your sleeping patterns – helping you alter your lifestyle and ultimately increasing your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.