Sleep Trackers Could Actually Be Making Your Sleep Worse

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We all know we should be getting more hours with our head on the pillow, and more of us are turning to technology to help us try and get a good night’s sleep.

But a new study has shown that our efforts with sleep trackers could actually be exacerbating sleep problems, not alleviating them.

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Published by the Rush University Medical Centre, it reported that a total of 15% of adults in the USA are now wearing the devices at night and with 3.9 million sold in 2014 (later figures not available) there is no sign of the growth slowing anytime soon.

Psychologist Kelly Glazer Baron said: “It’s great that so many people want to improve their sleep. However, the claims of these devices really outweigh validation of what they have been shown to be doing.”

Part of the problem is what the team are referring to as the ‘quantified self’ where people rely heavily on the daily acquisition of data (how many steps, how many calories, how many hours of rest) to enhance their mental and physical life.

But some of us are taking it too far and that in itself becomes stressful, anxiety-inducing, and self-defeating in terms of trying to get a restful night.

Baron said: “The perfectionist quest to achieve perfect sleep is similar to the unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating, termed orthorexia.”

Not only are we becoming fixated on the numbers, but it has been found that the reporting isn’t always even accurate, so we are fixated on potentially inaccurate data anyway.

“They don’t do a good job of estimating sleep accurately,” said Baron, “They are not able to differentiate between light and deep sleep. And they might even be calling it sleep while you’re reading in bed.”

These devices can also be reinforcing bad sleep habits, for instance, in the hope of increasing their sleep tally, participants in the trial were spending more hours in their bed, which actually goes against advice from sleep therapists.

But Baron does have some words of reassurance for those of us struggling to stop tossing and turning, saying: “It’s not always possible to hack the perfect night of sleep.”

So cut yourself some slack.