Benefits of a Wearable Sleep Tracker

 

The Fitbit Flex
The Fitbit Flex

 

Wearables, or more specifically health-tracking wristbands, have been the hottest trend for 2014. The information wearables gather on sleep is: total sleep time, sleep cycles and awake times. We see a lot of value in a wearable sleep tracker, as this information is empowering if you take action.

Health tracking wristbands, according to market research, only get used for an average of six months. People don’t know how to make sense of all that information. Brian Eastwood on Cio.com talks about how wearable devices just tell us what we already know, as you can tell how healthy you are just by “listening” to your body.

We agree with that in terms of general health, but we disagree in that you don’t know how you sleep. “Listening to your body,” tells you if you’re rested or not, but not why. Let’s use someone who we’ll call Joe, who has mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OAS) as a hypothetical case study.

Joe uses a Wearable Sleep Tracker

The Misfit Shine
The Misfit Shine

Joe thinks he’s sleeping a full eight hours a night, but he’s tired during the day. His wearable indicates interruptions in his sleep followed by periods of awakening and, since it detects ambient noise, snoring. He does an Internet search and finds mild OAS as one possible cause. Joe reads sleeping on his side helps.

Joe tries it the next night and his wearable tells him that he slept a little better. He also comes across something about the right pillow opening up his airway. He tries that, too and it helps. He still isn’t sleeping optimally.

Joe goes to his doctor and reports his findings. She doesn’t think the problem is serious enough for a sleep test, as he is improving. The doctor tells him to drop some weight to get rid of the fat blocking his airway at night and stop snoring. Exercise, she mentions, along with other natural remedies for insomnia, will also help him sleep better.

He immediately starts a healthy diet and regular exercise program, with his wearable keeping him accountable. Joe loses twenty pounds and the snoring stops. He starts sleeping great. He looks amazing, has tons of energy and his social life picks up exponentially.

Joe doesn’t use a Wearable Sleep Tracker

Joe feels tired all the time. He drinks caffeine all day to stay awake and can’t sleep without a few beers at night. He can’t function at work. He sees his doctor. She prescribes a sleep aid and tells him to cut back on caffeine and alcohol.

After a month he feels worse. He’s sleeping, but he’s still exhausted. He gains a lot of weight and suffers from depression and anxiety. Joe goes back to the doctor and she gives him a prescription for depression. He feels a little better, but is still so tired. He starts majorly dropping the ball at work. Sleep deprivation makes him irritable, moody and miserable.

His doctor refers him to a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist gives Joe a machine and tells him to hook it up to his finger before bed. It monitors breathing and heart rate. The doctor looks at the results and says Joe has OAS.

CPAP
CPAP Machine. source: Larry and Teddy Page Flickr

Joe gets a CPAP machine to give him extra oxygen. He hooks it up to his nose every night before bed. Now he’s sleeping better. Joe just wishes he didn’t need the machine, as it’s seriously hurting his confidence. He still takes the depression meds and has gained thirty pounds.

While wearables won’t diagnose a disease or make any conclusions about your health, the information they give you, in terms of sleep, is powerful. How are you supposed to know what you do at night? We don’t recommend that you self-diagnose any symptoms you have, but the information you gain is helpful to you and your doctor. A wearable sleep tracker is a powerful way to take control of your health.