Sleep trackers probably won’t help you sleep any better

Everyone wants to get a better night’s rest. For typical adult humans, numerous studies show that eight hours is the amount of slumber needed for the human body to function optimally. Why? Sleep plays a key role in nearly every system in the body: helping things like our immune systems, brains, and guts recover and thrive.
So it’s a no wonder that we would want to be able to track the amount of sleep we get in order to be our freshest selves the next day. But aside from keeping count of the number of hours we get each night, sleep researchers say sleep monitors are cool to look at, but don’t provide any valuable data to enable you to get a better night’s rest.
Sleep monitors are either sold on their own (like Beddit, which sits on the outside of your mattress) or as part of a fitness wearable, like the ones found in the Fitbit Versa or the Polar A370. Using your heart rate as a guide, they measure things like the percent of your night you slept in deep, light, or REM sleep. But gathering that data isn’t enough to help researchers interpret it.“At this point, none of that data tells you anything about how good someone slept,” says Jamie Zeitzer, a neurobiologist and sleep medicine researcher at Stanford University.
The end result of your dreamtime monitoring is a data-centric sciencey chart of your night’s slumber. It looks impressive, but according to experts, it can’t tell you much. “If you get 60 minutes of REM sleep or 90 minutes or even 120 minutes, that gives you no information about how well you slept,” says Zeitzer. Years of research analyzing those stages of sleep have given averages of how often people in different age groups tend to spend in each cycle each night.
The problem, though, is that sleep is a very personalized activity. There really are no standards or norms that researchers can use to say that the sleep you got was ideal for your health. If you are above or below that average, sleep scientists haven’t yet figured out whether or how that affects your sleep quality or health. “If you are getting more light sleep than someone of your age and sex, does that mean anything? We have no idea.

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