Why Should You Use a Sleep Tracker?
A good night's sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. Conserving energy, healing the body, consolidating memories, and regulating emotions are some of the key reasons why we sleep. Normally, human adults require anywhere between seven and nine hours of undisturbed sleep during the night, so that the body can get the optimum rest it requires.
However, professional commitments and changing lifestyles are some of the key factors that negatively impact our sleep health. Staying up late to meet deadlines or late-night parties can compromise on the number of hours you get to sleep. This can affect your health and leave you feeling fatigued and sleepy during the next day.
So if you have been experiencing disturbed sleep, or consistently experiencing daytime sleepiness, it is important to understand the reason behind this disturbance. Do not ignore lack of sleep for long as it can lead to more serious health challenges. Monitor your sleep to detect any patterns that you can discuss with your healthcare provider and seek early medical help, if needed.
Sleep Tracker Apps: Pros and Cons
With the availability of numerous sleep tracking devices and apps, it has become easier to understand your sleep patterns and even identify the reasons for disturbed sleep. There are tracking devices that you can wear on your wrists, clip them on your pillow, or rest on the bedside table.
These devices and apps use motion sensing to decide whether you are awake or asleep. When there is movement, they register you as awake, and when there is no movement, they presume you are asleep. These gadgets and apps can help you track the total number of hours you sleep, the sleep and wake cycle, and the number of times you woke up during the night.
The common data points tracked include:
Sleep duration: By tracking the time when there is no movement.
Sleep quality: By tracking the interruptions to your night sleep.
Sleep phases: By tracking the phases of your sleep and setting off an alarm when your sleep is light.
Environmental factors: By tracking parameters such as the temperature or the amount of light of the bedroom.
Lifestyle factors: By tracking the information about factors that can potentially disrupt your sleep.
All of these data points can provide your healthcare practitioner with useful insights to judge if there are serious disorders or underlying health challenges in your current sleep patterns.
However, there is a vast difference in the type and depth of data that the tracking app or devices can gather. Also, there is a concern about the accuracy of data captured. A lot of the devices, especially those at the less expensive end of the spectrum, provide guesstimates at best because they cannot differentiate between sleep and just lying in the bed.
Additionally, not all trackers can accurately measure the total sleep/wake time and suggest that there is an underlying problem with the sleep pattern. This is especially true for naps, because naps taken during the day can influence the night sleep. Also, commercial trackers are not truly effective when it comes to tracking the time a person gets a light sleep and during the slow wave and REM (rapid eye movement) stages of sleep.
But that being said, the need for accuracy in sleep trackers is largely dependent on why you are using it. If you are in general good health and wish to use a sleep tracker to simply understand your overall sleep pattern, the available range of trackers with general, big-picture data is helpful. However, if you experience symptoms like headaches, fatigue, daytime sleepiness etc. consistently, and suspect it might be related to your sleep or lack thereof, then you need a more accurate kind of sleep tracker.
Tracking Your Sleep to Identify Sleep Apnea
Snoring, combined with persistent fatigue, headaches, daytime sleepiness and declining productivity can be indicative of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects normal breathing to cause sleep disturbance. A person suffering from sleep apnea may experience difficulty in breathing due to blocked upper airway muscles which can cause choking and wake the person up for want of proper breath. Since breathing is disrupted, the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs—and therefore, to other parts of the body—lowers, which can cause a number of health disorders. Although sleep apnea may look harmless, it can lead to serious medical conditions.
In such cases, the generic sleep trackers are not very useful, because they are not able to pinpoint disrupted sleep until the person physically, consciously wakes up from sleep. However, with obstructive sleep apnea, patients don’t fully wake up, but their body does keep waking up internally, to clear the upper airway obstruction and resume breathing. And you need a sleep tracker that can capture that.
The myNight App
ResMed’s myNight app is a simple way to analyse your sleep and understand if you are at risk of sleep apnea. The app uses your smartphone’s microphones to capture the sounds - breathing and snoring - as you sleep, and compares the data to a set of normal sleep profiles. A close analysis of the difference between your and standard normal sleep profiles reveals your sleep apnea risk.
The Home Sleep Test
If your myNight app results indicate medium or high lisk of sleep apnea, you may consider a Home Sleep Test (HST).
HST is an easy, non-invasive but highly accurate way to medically diagnose sleep apnea. The HST simplifies the testing procedure so you don’t have to visit a hospital, but can rather take the test from the comfort of your home. With ResMed, you can book a Home Sleep Test and receive a pre-assembled test device at your doorstep. Simply follow the instructions and the test will occur as you sleep through the night.
The data captured during such an overnight Home Sleep Test includes respiratory effort, airflow, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation while you were asleep and is stored on the device. When you return the device, the sleep experts examine this data to determine the quality of your sleep and whether you have a medical condition. If you are diagnosed with a sleep apnea, you will be advised to seek further medical assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.
So, if you or someone in your family snore and/or experience persistent fatigue during the day, download the myNight app to know you sleep apnea risk. Based on your results, you can also book a Home Sleep Test right here.