Sleep tracking and how to use it
Everyone needs more sleep.
We all know we should watch less TV, wind down before bed and get a decent night's sleep. But just what is a refreshing night's sleep - for you? And is there an easy way to a healthier routine after the summer holidays?
Well, the good news is that the same technology that disrupts our sleep can also help fix it. A decade ago, the only way to figure out your personalised sleep pattern was to attend a sleep lab and spend the night with monitors around your bed. Now it's possible to get the same information from an app. Armed with this information, you can pick the right amount of sleep and the best time to wake up, in line with your biorhythms.
There are three types of tracker:
Bedside monitors are typically phone apps that track your movements during the night and assign the corresponding sleep type to your activity. This is a smart way of monitoring your sleep as your body (usually) enters a temporary paralysis during deeper sleep, to stop you from acting out your dreams. They can also record snoring and wake you up during your lightest sleep phase. Just place the phone next to you, to record. Take a look at Sleep Cycle or Sleep Tracker for the iPhone or SleepCycle and SleepBot for Android phones.
The next step up in terms of accuracy and price are wearables. Fitbits, activity bracelets and smartwatches from Google and Apple usually offer this information as part of their package, although you will have to keep a linked online account to access your sleep diaries. In addition to movement, your bracelet (or watch) also tracks your temperature and heart rate, so you have an in-depth view of your night-time patterns. As an added bonus, you can buzz your wearable to wake you up - which your partner may appreciate! Take a look at the Fitbit Alter or the Polar A370 for accuracy or the Nokia Steel HR for the style.
If you want accuracy without intrusion, it's time to look at mattress monitors. As they are dedicated sleep trackers, you can enjoy complete accuracy without anything touching your skin or sharing your data online. However, they are more expensive, ranging from £99 to £500, depending on your choice. Nokia's Sleep Sensing Pad is fast to set up and convenient to use, with an automation option for lights and music. By comparison, the Emfit QS HRV Sleep Monitor is brilliant for athletes, with serious amounts of information and a body recovery score that can help you to modify training sessions the next day.
No matter which tracker you choose, you are making a smart choice to take your sleep seriously. It plays a huge role in our wellbeing, from physical performance to memory retention and stress.