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How Do Fitness Trackers Know When You Sleep?

How Do Fitness Trackers Know When You Sleep?

Conventional insight and today’s societal demands dictate that the less sleep you get, the more successful you become. However, an increasing number of people are learning that lack of sleep, quality sleep to be particular, counters the ability of the frontal lobe of a human brain to think, plan, organize, set and achieve goals nearly as well as it should. This is according to Sandra B. Chapman, the founder of the Centre of BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas. In truth, sleep matters. That also explains the present whirl of a trend riding on the back of sleep tracking and sleep trackers, and fitness bands that can track sleep patterns and recommend what to do to get restful sleep. But, how do fitness trackers know when you sleep?

How Do Fitness Trackers Know When You Sleep

How Do Fitness Trackers Know When You Sleep?The latest sleep trackers claim to detect when you sleep, automatically. Some claim they can gauge the quality of sleep you get while banded on your wrist. Others claim to tell what stages of sleep and how many sleep cycles you experienced the night before.

Michael Scullin is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine. According to him, users of sleep trackers should not anticipate the devices to discern between sleep stages since the gadgets rely on physical motion.

In contrast, brain activity defines sleep stages—non-physical motion—which is what lab sleep tests gauge, a process referred to as polysomnography (PSG) and is monitored using an EEG test. A couple of electrodes have to be attached to a person’s skull to accurately measure this.

So any fitness band that claims it can tell how much time you spent in a specific sleep stage (deep or light sleep stages) is likely not being accurate.

Modern fitness trackers, such Jawbone UP and Fitbit sleep trackers, that claim to gauge sleep patterns and quality depend on a tri-axis accelerometer sensor to sense body movement while you sleep.

That also says the gadgets don’t, as of now, understand when exactly you sleep. They can do so “fairly reliably” but not more, according to Professor Paul Gringras, a sleep specialist based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital as a lead consultant at the Evelina Clinic.

Lie still

That is because a fitness tracker “thinks” you are asleep when it detects you’ve been lying or sitting still for a while. You could be sleeping, alright. You could be sitting, calmly watching a touchy soap opera. You might be studying or just thinking out or reminiscing the good times past, or reading that before-bed novel.

When you turn the book’s pages, the hand swipe registers as restlessness. So the sleep tracker (inaccurately) reports the next morning that you had terrible sleep the night before. Same thing applies when your partner turns in their sleep and makes your hand move. There is a myriad of situations that can affect the accuracy of an accelerometer-based sleep tracker.

However, the latest fitness bands are turning to 6-axis accelerometer sense power. That should help make them pretty sensitive to the slightest of movements in bed, or in your sleep wherever you choose to kip. The buzz is that the high sensitivity could make it possible to tell when you sleep by “listening” in on respiratory patterns. Naturally, sleep is characterized by slowed breathing and heart rate patterns.

Maybe that could be the way to go. For now, all fitness trackers can do is count hours slept, although inaccurately, compared to an EEG test. Yet, the now discontinued Zeo sleep tracker had proven itself as accurate as a lab-based test kit. However, it had to be clipped to a headband.

From the forehead, it could feedback sleep information regarding where, exactly, a person was in their sleep cycles. The business side of the company went under although the software was great. Whether fitness trackers can grow up to be like Zeo is something we might have to wait restlessly for.

Bottom line

How most of us live and work—our little hectic and preoccupied habits—are not conducive to a good night’s sleep, which adversely affects the brain and bodily functions.

That includes high-level thinking, retaining memory, and repairing injured or replacing dead cells. Turning to the more accurate sleep trackers to find out just how well you sleep, and how to improve that, is an option you might find invaluable if you feel your need for one is long overdue.

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