Superfluous, sleep trackers
Electronic gizmos that measure sleep quality aren't really helpful, experts say.
There's not much that beats a good night's sleep. So when we are offered to improve it, we are often ready to pay dearly. Very expensive even. But are the devices that measure dodo quality worth the cost? An expert slices.
According to Régine Denesle, psychotherapist and director of the insomnia clinic at the Center for Advanced Studies in Sleep Medicine at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur in Montreal, these devices can be useful, but have many limitations and do not necessarily deliver what they promise
Before investing in a sleep tracker of sleep, be aware that:
- So far, the measurements – even if they are quite efficient – are not equivalent to those obtained in a laboratory of sleep and generally underestimate the time we have slept.
- Contrary to what some companies suggest, these electronic gadgets cannot indicate sleep cycles, with the exception of rare models equipped with electrodes that are placed on the head. Most can only measure whether the individual is sleeping or not, and even then not always accurately.
- Knowing that you sleep badly does not help you sleep better. It's even the opposite, since it contributes to anxiety, which is “one of the first causes of insomnia”. By not offering treatment, these devices have the potential to harm people who have trouble sleeping rather than help them. sleep trackers “can reassure us when there is a problem or they can worry us when there is nothing wrong”.
- Therapists suggest that insomniacs avoid using these gadgets and opt instead for an approach that “empowers” patients and “teaches them to be aware of the signs of sleep”.
If Régine Denesle does not encourage the use of devices that track sleep, she assures that solutions exist to help people suffering from insomnia: “With cognitive-behavioral therapy, we give a series of instructions for good behavior to observe to get our circadian rhythm back on track. We also see the whole cognitive aspect, that is to say that we undo sometimes unrealistic expectations about sleep and we demystify certain things.”
With this support, the use of a good quality sleep tracker can even be beneficial, according to the specialist, since the measurements would allow “to see the improvement of its results and to encourage [the or the patient.e] to continue”. And for people who don't have a sleep problem, it can be a way of “reassuring” themselves by noticing that you have a stable sleep night after night.
Not convinced? It's worth keeping an eye out. Innovations are going well as several technology companies are working hard to refine these devices in order to stand out from the competition.
As the algorithms become more and more efficient, one can imagine that one day there will be something “quite close to polysomnography”, that is to say the medical examination which makes it possible to see in which stage of sleep the person is in, the transitions from one stage to another, the delay in falling asleep and the periods of wakefulness, etc, explains Ms. Denesle.
The expert also sees potential for sleep disorder treatment programs based both on the data from said algorithms and on our scientific knowledge. For example, “we know that having regular wake-up times and bedtimes helps reset our biological clocks, so we could have a device programmed to tell us when to go to bed”.
If you already like to monitor your heartbeat and the number of steps you take, you may well embark on a new passion by monitoring your sleep… provided you do not neglect a medical approach if you suffer from insomnia!
Good to know:
March 18, 2022 is National Day Sleep International. It takes place every year on the Friday before the March equinox. Good sleep!