Technology allows us to keep close tabs on almost every aspect of our lives, including sleep. But does knowing how many times you rolled over last night really help you sleep better? In the short run, maybe not, but in the grand scheme of things, sleep tracking can give you a good look at patterns that can help you make better health-related choices.
What You’re Actually Tracking
The first step in understanding sleep tracking is to know what kind of information you’re really looking at. Sleep trackers are great at detecting movement. You’ll get a good idea of whether or not your partner was right about how many times you bumped into him.
Sleep trackers are also great at giving you a glimpse into your overall sleep patterns. How early do you go to bed? What time do you generally wake up? How long are you really sleeping? Some of the results might surprise you.
But the information you get from a sleep tracker can’t detect sleep disorders. However, if your partner tells you that you’re snoring so loud he can’t sleep and the tracker shows you are restless for most of the night, the two together could be evidence of a sleep issue worth discussing with your doctor. The sleep trackers evidence of frequent movement alone indicates nothing more than an active sleeping patterns.
Some sleep trackers say they can detect your sleep stages, but trackers base their findings on arm and leg movement. Brain waves and eye movement are better sleep stage indicators and trackers just don’t have the ability to monitor those factors.
How to Use the Information from a Sleep Tracker
Now that you know what the information from a sleep tracker can tell you, you can use that information to boost the quality of your sleep and overall health.
Take a good look at how long you’re actually spending in bed. (Keep in mind that if you are awake but not moving, the tracker may say you’re sleeping more than you are.) Is your sleep time less than seven hours? If so, you’re not spending enough time in bed and certainly not getting enough sleep as you usually need at least 15 to 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Your bedtime and wake up time can also give you an indication of your body’s preferred sleep cycle. Do you stay up late and sleep in? Or are you waking up early? If you’re an early riser, you’ll need to make sure you have an earlier bedtime to get in all the sleep you need.
Improve the Quality of Your Sleep
Armed with the information from your sleep tracker, you can make changes to your habits and give yourself a health boost. Once you know you’re not getting enough sleep, you can try:
Getting the Right Support: Some mattresses are better at supporting certain sleep positions than others. Stomach sleepers need more support than a back sleeper and side sleepers need a design that will conform to their shape. Make sure your mattress lets you be as comfortable as possible so you’re not waking due to a sore shoulder or back.
Setting and Keeping a Bedtime: Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Your brain tries to accommodate your preferred schedule but it can only do that if you keep a consistent one. So set a bedtime then stick to it even on weekends.
Taking Advantage of a Bedtime Routine: Routines help trigger the start of the sleep cycle and help you release stress after a long day. They’re also the last opportunity you have to pamper yourself. A warm bath, hot cup of milk, yoga, or meditation are all ways you can help bring down your heart rate while relaxing tense muscles. Make sure to do everything in the same order and enjoy some end of day relaxation.
Go ahead and track your sleep and let that information guide you towards a healthier lifestyle. But also keep in mind that you’ll get the best rest when you cultivate habits that support good sleep. Be consistent and most importantly, go to bed on time!