Sleep trackers increase in popularity, usefulness

It is now possible to find out lots of details about what you are doing while you are sleeping at night. There are wrist sensors, rings and a host of other gadgets that measure how much sleep you are getting on a nightly basis. They are known as Consumer Sleep Technologies (CSTs) and there are dozens of options. These sleep trackers can give a person a better idea of whether they are getting enough quality sleep.

Sleep trackers use sensors to detect things such as body movement and heart rate. Some wearable sleep trackers remain on the individual to measure data and then they send the information to an app on a smartphone. Some sleep trackers rest on a mattress and some rest under the mattress or next to the bed. All these devices upload data that is analyzed through an algorithm.

Dan Jennings, who is 76 years old and lives in Seattle, Washington, has been using the Motiv ring for more than two years. It looks just like a regular ring on his finger and it is paired to a smart phone app.

“You should not expect perfection but the devices give you a good idea of your sleep patterns and the amount of sleep you are getting at night,” said Jennings. “I like that it is easy and it is just a ring and I wear it to bed. It is not a watch or bulky device. It has been fairly accurate.”

He said it has helped improve his sleep because it had made him work harder on going to bed early and setting goals. The Motiv ring is no longer sold, but another ring called Oura is growing in popularity. It is made of titanium and is lightweight and water resistant. The company that makes it calls it “the most comfortable smart ring in the world”. It captures body signals like resting heart rate, body temperature and active calorie burn. It has a long battery life of up to 1 week, with fast, wireless charging, and costs $300.

Raising awareness

Dr. John Krehlik runs a sleep center in Anchorage that specializes in the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea, and provides home sleep testing. His sleep disorder clinic specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. He told Senior Voice that CSTs have become more prevalent over the past few years.

“Most CSTs are self-described as ‘lifestyle/entertainment’ devices. As such, they are not subject to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight. These devices generally lack standardization and validation of data,” said Dr. Krehlik.

He said sleep trackers are not a substitute for appropriate medical evaluation. “None at this time have been validated to render a diagnosis or treatment plan.”

However, they have helped raise awareness of sleep issues, which can be addressed and successfully treated. He said a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2020 suggested that wearing a CST may have a positive impact on the perception of sleep quality. This study was done at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences. “CSTs have the potential to positively impact sleep in the future. They are able to generate large patient generated databases of sleep data that are otherwise unobtainable by conventional methods,” said Dr. Krehlik.

Which work best?

Dr. William J. Healy, is the director of Sleep Quality Improvement at the Medical College of Georgia and AU Health System in Augusta, and he said sleep trackers can be helpful adjuncts but should not be considered to be medical data.

“I recommend using a pen and paper to track sleep like a sleep log from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine,” said Dr. Healy. He said while CTS can be helpful for getting patients to think more about their sleep patterns and what factors improve and worsen sleep, there has not been a rigorous validation of the technology and they do not always accurately reflect sleep time.

“I think it is fine for patients to use the information as a part of the puzzle. However, they can likely achieve as good of results with pen and paper. They are constantly improving and here to stay,” Dr. Healy told Senior Voice.

The Sleep Foundation has studied many of these gadgets and it has rated them. It claims some of the best sleep trackers are Fitbit Versa, which is a wearable watch that costs $160, and the Go2Sleep Tracker from SleepOn, which is a silicone ring that syncs with your phone to provide sleep data you can access on its accompanying phone app. The Sleep Foundation rates the Tempur-Pedic Sleeptracker as the best non-wearable sleep detector. It slides under your mattress and monitors sleep quality, and duration. It also monitors your bedroom environment, such as air purity, humidity, CO2 levels, and temperature near your bed. It costs $300.

Not the total answer

Currently, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has issued a position statement saying CSTs cannot be utilized for the diagnosis and/or treatment of sleep disorders at this time. However, CSTs may be utilized to enhance the patient-clinician interaction when presented in the context of an appropriate clinical evaluation.

Jennings said he has benefited significantly over the past two years with his ring and now has added a pad under his sheet that prevents the mattress from getting too hot or holding heat.

“In the past, I struggled staying asleep because I was too hot. Between the ring and this pad, I’m sleeping longer than I have in the past,” Jennings said.

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