We live in a society where you can track everything about ourselves. And I mean EVERYTHING. Where you are, your heart rate, your stress level, how you feel about what you just ate, if you’re eating the right mix of macros, your fertility, the list goes on. And of course, your sleep. But not all sleep trackers are created equal when it comes to tracking your sleep. I spoke to sleep & travel wellness expert Christopher Babayode about how sleep trackers work. Here are five things you should know before you jump in and start tracking.
1. Not all sleep trackers are created equal
There is a lot of technology out there when it comes to sleep trackers. Pressure sensors, accelerometers, GPS, optical heart rate monitors, galvanic skin response. Non-wearable sleep trackers that use movement or pressure to know if you’re awake may not work as well as wearable monitors that use optical sensors to monitor your heart rate and know when you are in different states of sleep. Especially if you share your bed. A tracker you wear on your finger will give a better reading than one you wear on your wrist. This is because there is a stronger pulse by the base of the finger than on the wrist. As Christopher says, ‘some sleep monitors do it better than others.’
2. Trackers are not 100% accurate
Like most things, no sleep tracker is 100% accurate. If you want to get close to getting useful data from a sleep tracker, Christopher suggests finding one that gives you a heart rate variability reading or a readiness score reading.
“A readiness score looks at your deep sleep, your REM sleep, your activity and gives a score based on that and says “Your readiness is great today. Go out there and change the world.”
Alternatively, if the reading isn’t great, then it’s something you can factor into your day and maybe take a nap in the afternoon before that grueling gym workout or important financial meeting with your boss.
3. Tracking your sleep can stop you sleeping well
There is a risk that if you become so caught up in monitoring your sleep that it can stop you sleeping. Thinking about if you are going to sleep well and that you must sleep well so that the tracker gives you a good reading is a sure-fire way of not sleeping at all. If you think that you may end up doing this, then tracking your sleep with a tracker may not be a good option for you. Instead, use how you feel and score yourself from one to ten each morning on how you feel.
As Christopher points out, “We are subjective human beings. The subjectivity of who we are always trumps the objectivity of the data. That’s the difference between man and machine, and we should always have that understanding. Remember, this is not 100% accurate technology anyway, and after all, it is just technology.”
4. Your data is your data, no one else’s
Your sleep data is going to be very different from someone else’s data. Not only because you are two different people but because the tracker you use may be different, how you wear it and the environment in which you sleep, amongst other things. There are too many variables to list.
Christopher suggests that for people who are not tracking anything, data from a tracker that can serve as a benchmark is always useful. But it’s a benchmark from which to understand your sleep. It can be used to get the best out of yourself day to day. Not to compare and get the best score you can.
5. You should never give over your power to your sleep tracker
Don’t ever let your sleep tracker tell you how to feel. If the data from your tracker shows that you didn’t sleep well, but you feel good and feel like you slept well then, you feel good and taking on the world today is a good idea. Just because in theory, you should be feeling sluggish and tired because the tracker thinks that’s the case doesn’t mean you should then take it easy and not conquer the world.
“The difficulty comes into play when people give away their power, so to speak, and then they let that dictate how they feel. That should never be the case.”
Christopher Babayode is a sleep & travel wellness expert with over 19 years’ experience in the airline industry. He has been helping people to solve their sleep issues since 2003. Find out more about Christopher and what he does at improveyoursleepnow.com.
Photo by FitNish Media on Unsplash