Research suggests that a good portion of America is restless, with “20-35% of adults [reporting] consistent sleep difficulties,” according to research published in the journal Current Sleep Medical Reports. Whether it be disordered or insufficient, chronically affected sleep can have troubling real-life health consequences beyond just feeling sleepy during the day. Luckily, additional research reveals that external physical tracking devices can be a useful tool in unlocking quality rest.
“Sleep trackers work by monitoring some of our basic biology to try and determine two things,” explained Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a double board-certified psychiatrist of sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD. “One, if the person is asleep; two, what stage of sleep they are in.” This data is what you or a medical professional can use to decipher the lifestyle habits or environmental factors that could be impacting your sleep hygiene.
Dimitriu agrees that gathering information about the quality and quantity of your sleep can be a helpful first step towards reclaiming better rest. “[Sleep trackers] can provide feedback and reward for positive behaviors, such as reminders to start winding down, and to get to bed at an earlier time,“ Dimitriu said. “By heart-rate monitoring throughout the night, it also can be beneficial to see the effects of alcohol, a late exercise or a late dinner on sleep depth. I’m always surprised to see how disruptive a late dinner can be to my sleep.”
Wendy Troxel, a senior scientist at the the nonprofit think tank RAND Corporation and a scientific advisor’s aid for The Sleep Foundation, said that simply using a sleep tracking device shouldn’t be considered an intervention; rather, it’s what you choose to do with that information that can lead to improved sleep.
“[Sleep trackers] can be useful when used in conjunction with evidence-based behavioral strategies that have been proven to help sleep quality and quantity, such as maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule, as monitoring the behavior you are trying to change is a good way to track progress and maintain accountability,” Troxel told HuffPost.
Dr. David Rabin, a neuroscientist and board-certified psychiatrist based in California, said that having access to this kind of information from commercially available devices is really a step in personal empowerment. In the past, people would have to undergo professionally conducted sleep studies to get the same data.
“Sleep monitoring devices require people to take control of their own internal environment, to regain that sense of balance, and to facilitate a state of mind that enables you to make those healthy choices,” he said.
Ahead, find some expert-recommended sleep trackers that may help you harness a better night’s rest.
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