Don’t let your sleep app keep you awake

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Does your sleep tracker app often give you failing grades on your sleep, yet you feel fine?

Don’t lose any sleep over it. As an article in the Journal of Clinic Sleep Medicine notes, sleep trackers can only offer limited information about your sleep habits. And if you wake up refreshed and feel like you slept well, you probably shouldn’t let a poor report from your sleep tracker change your mind.

What do sleep trackers measure?

Sleep tracker apps measure movement. Some do that through your smartphone: You let the app know you’re going to sleep and place it under your pillow or next to you in bed. In the morning it reports how long and fitfully you slept.

Other sleep tracker apps are loaded on fitness wristbands. They too use a kind of motion detector to rate your sleep.

Both types assume that more motion means poor sleep. Neither one can measure deep sleep vs. light sleep. And the phone app may tell you more about the movement of a bedmate—be it partner or pet.

The wristband potentially could alert you to a sleep problem, like restless legs syndrome. But the app can’t diagnose it. For that, you likely need an evaluation in a sleep lab.

Read the abstract of the journal article online.

What if you don’t awake refreshed?

Even with the latest high-tech apps, you’re probably still your own best resource on how well you sleep. If you regularly wake up feeling fatigued instead of rested, you might want to talk to your doctor about sleeping disorders.

But first, take a look at your sleeping habits. Your behavior during the day—or just before bedtime—may be keeping you from a good rest.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these tips for a healthy night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep-wake schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day—including weekends.
  • Go to bed early enough to allow for at least seven hours of sleep.
  • If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet for a while.
  • Establish a relaxing routine before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath, reading and turning the lights low.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex. Don’t work or watch TV in bed.
  • Turn off the TV, computer and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks or food in the late afternoon and evening.

How much do you know about sleep aids? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

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