Why you should monitor your sleep

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The most important reason to track your sleep is that sleep is good for your health, so you need to be sure you're getting enough of it. Research has shown that getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night can:

  • Decrease your chance of motor vehicle accidents
  • Lessen your likelihood of obesity, since sleep deprivation can increase appetite
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Improve your concentration, reaction time and memory
  • Boost your moods and creativity
  • Enhance your immune system to help ward off colds and infections
  • Increase regulation of appetite, energy use and weight control

While sleep trackers can collect a lot of information about your slumber habits, there’s one important thing they generally don’t do, says Alan Schwartz, M.D. , director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center: “They don’t measure sleep directly,” he says.

Somnofy

Instead, they often measure inactivity as a surrogate for estimating sleep, he explains. “Most sleep tracking devices make some guesstimate as to how much you’re actually sleeping.”

For exact data about your sleep habits, you’d have to do a medical sleep study , which monitors brain waves to analyze the stages of sleep you cycle through during the night. Such studies are helpful for diagnosing conditions like sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

Still, tracking devices can definitely be useful for helping you recognize patterns in your sleep habits, Schwartz says. Do you feel sluggish when you sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. but energetic if you shift your shuteye to 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.? Do you sleep better when your bedroom is cooler or on days you exercise? Is your sleep disrupted if you have caffeine after lunchtime?

“The tracker will give you something to reflect on,” says Schwartz – often with user-friendly graphs or reports that make it easy to spot trends.