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Assessing Sleep: Are Sleep Trackers Any Good?

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Assessing Sleep: Are Sleep Trackers Any Good?

In order to get a full eight hours of sleep, you make sure to be in bed every night by 10pm. Before you know it, the alarm’s SCREAMING at you to get up! You’re still completely exhausted, even though you swear you had a full night’s sleep. Does this sound like you?


With sleep deprivation being the huge issue that it is, it’s no wonder so many of us are turning to personal sleep trackers for some insight. Our quick guide will help you determine which sleep tracker, if any, is right for you.  

How Sleep Trackers Work

Sleep trackers monitor your sleep through actigraphy, accelerometers, and heart rate. Actigraphy records your body’s movements and is the most popular way to track sleep. Tiny components called accelerometers sense movement throughout the night and then convert that movement into electrical signals. While this is the most common way to track sleep, it’s certainly not the most accurate. Heart rate sensors are better at determining your sleep cycles and combined with movement, may provide a better overall picture of your sleep.

Types of Sleep Trackers

Apps. You can easily download a sleep app on your smartphone to track sleep movements - just place it on your Polysleep mattress and you’re good to go! Sleep apps work by using the built-in accelerometer on your phone to sense movements and record sounds.

Pros:  

  • Decent accuracy determining hours slept
  • May provide insight into snoring and other disturbances

Cons:   

  • Movement can’t determine sleep quality or sleep stages
  • Subtle movements may not be detected
  • Laying still may be confused with sleep
  • Movement from others will affect results

Best For:

  • Those just looking to get an idea of how long they sleep, without spending more than a buck or two

Wearable Wristbands. Certain wearable devices track sleep through movement, while newer models incorporate heart rate. It’s important to purchase a device that includes heart rate monitoring to increase its accuracy.

Pros:

  • Contact with body allows for more accuracy compared to apps;
  • Better estimates of sleep cycles due to heart rate sensor.

Cons:

  • Not every device includes heart rate monitoring;
  • Laying still may be confused with sleep;
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear depending on how bulky it is;
  • Not 100% accurate in determining sleep stages.

Best For:

  • Health and fitness enthusiasts, as many of these wearables are also fitness trackers.
  • Anyone looking for a general overview of their sleep patterns and are willing to spend a few bucks for a device.

Headbands. Headband sleep trackers monitor brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG), just like the sleep professionals! These devices also monitor heart rate, breathing, and movement.

Pros:

  • Overall higher accuracy monitoring sleep cycles, thanks to EEG;
  • Provides a wide variety of information.

Cons:

  • Head straps may be uncomfortable to wear.

Best For:

  • Those who may have sleep concerns and looking for more detail.
  • Those looking for more accurate insight into their sleep cycle.

Bedside Trackers. These devices monitor heart rate, breathing, movement, and more. Some bedside trackers come with a strip to place under your mattress, a special mattress cover, or a device to place on your nightstand that uses radio waves to detect sleep.

Pros:

  • Comfortable - nothing to strap on;
  • Higher accuracy than apps and wristbands;
  • Provides a wide variety of information.

Cons:

  • Movements may affect results if using mattress strip or if close contact is required;
  • No-contact setup may distort results;
  • Results may be too detailed, making it hard to understand;
  • No EEG for accurate sleep cycle monitoring.

Best For:

  • Athletes, as some devices were originally aimed towards improving the sleep of athletes.
  • Those who may have sleep concerns, looking for in-depth information, and already have some understanding of sleep.

Consider what you want out of your sleep tracker before making the purchase (especially if you’re about the drop some serious $$$). While personal trackers may give you some interesting insight, they simply can’t provide everything you need to really assess your sleep. Sleep trackers can raise awareness of potential issues, but sleep clinics are really the only way to diagnose sleep disorders with total accuracy. If you have a serious concern, it’s always best to visit your local sleep specialists.

In order to get a full eight hours of sleep, you make sure to be in bed every night by 10pm. Before you know it, the alarm’s SCREAMING at you to get up! You’re still completely exhausted, even though you swear you had a full night’s sleep. Does this sound like you?


With sleep deprivation being the huge issue that it is, it’s no wonder so many of us are turning to personal sleep trackers for some insight. Our quick guide will help you determine which sleep tracker, if any, is right for you.  

How Sleep Trackers Work

Sleep trackers monitor your sleep through actigraphy, accelerometers, and heart rate. Actigraphy records your body’s movements and is the most popular way to track sleep. Tiny components called accelerometers sense movement throughout the night and then convert that movement into electrical signals. While this is the most common way to track sleep, it’s certainly not the most accurate. Heart rate sensors are better at determining your sleep cycles and combined with movement, may provide a better overall picture of your sleep.

Types of Sleep Trackers

Apps. You can easily download a sleep app on your smartphone to track sleep movements - just place it on your Polysleep mattress and you’re good to go! Sleep apps work by using the built-in accelerometer on your phone to sense movements and record sounds.

Pros:  

  • Decent accuracy determining hours slept
  • May provide insight into snoring and other disturbances

Cons:   

  • Movement can’t determine sleep quality or sleep stages
  • Subtle movements may not be detected
  • Laying still may be confused with sleep
  • Movement from others will affect results

Best For:

  • Those just looking to get an idea of how long they sleep, without spending more than a buck or two

Wearable Wristbands. Certain wearable devices track sleep through movement, while newer models incorporate heart rate. It’s important to purchase a device that includes heart rate monitoring to increase its accuracy.

Pros:

  • Contact with body allows for more accuracy compared to apps;
  • Better estimates of sleep cycles due to heart rate sensor.

Cons:

  • Not every device includes heart rate monitoring;
  • Laying still may be confused with sleep;
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear depending on how bulky it is;
  • Not 100% accurate in determining sleep stages.

Best For:

  • Health and fitness enthusiasts, as many of these wearables are also fitness trackers.
  • Anyone looking for a general overview of their sleep patterns and are willing to spend a few bucks for a device.

Headbands. Headband sleep trackers monitor brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG), just like the sleep professionals! These devices also monitor heart rate, breathing, and movement.

Pros:

  • Overall higher accuracy monitoring sleep cycles, thanks to EEG;
  • Provides a wide variety of information.

Cons:

  • Head straps may be uncomfortable to wear.

Best For:

  • Those who may have sleep concerns and looking for more detail.
  • Those looking for more accurate insight into their sleep cycle.

Bedside Trackers. These devices monitor heart rate, breathing, movement, and more. Some bedside trackers come with a strip to place under your mattress, a special mattress cover, or a device to place on your nightstand that uses radio waves to detect sleep.

Pros:

  • Comfortable - nothing to strap on;
  • Higher accuracy than apps and wristbands;
  • Provides a wide variety of information.

Cons:

  • Movements may affect results if using mattress strip or if close contact is required;
  • No-contact setup may distort results;
  • Results may be too detailed, making it hard to understand;
  • No EEG for accurate sleep cycle monitoring.

Best For:

  • Athletes, as some devices were originally aimed towards improving the sleep of athletes.
  • Those who may have sleep concerns, looking for in-depth information, and already have some understanding of sleep.

Consider what you want out of your sleep tracker before making the purchase (especially if you’re about the drop some serious $$$). While personal trackers may give you some interesting insight, they simply can’t provide everything you need to really assess your sleep. Sleep trackers can raise awareness of potential issues, but sleep clinics are really the only way to diagnose sleep disorders with total accuracy. If you have a serious concern, it’s always best to visit your local sleep specialists.

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