Fitness trackers are all the rage, with sales of the devices doubling over the past two years. In 2015, the industry topped $1.4 billion. Juniper Research claims that by 2018, nearly 60 million people will be wearing fitness trackers. While tracking steps taken and calories burned are key features of the devices, so are their ability to monitor your sleep. But just how reliable are the graphs and data you receive upon waking? That depends.

Most devices on the market measure your sleep based on your movement. Some claim to not only track how long you slept, how often you woke or were restless, but also the amount of time you spent in each stage of sleep, differentiating between deep sleep, light sleep and Rapid Eye Movement sleep.

Sleep researchers at West Virginia University compared fitness trackers to a traditional sleep study test and found that trackers that gauge sleep based on movement aren’t always sleep_stage_n3accurate, overestimating patients’ nightly sleep time by 45 minutes to an hour. These devices assume that stillness equates to sleep, which isn’t always the case, particularly when it comes to diagnosing sleep apnea. The journal Sleep & Breathing reported that a comparison of the FitBit to the more sophisticated technology used in sleep labs yielded a 94 percent sleep efficiency rating (the ratio between sleep time and time spent falling asleep) from the FitBit, compared to 79.5 percent from the sleep lab technology. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology add that REM sleep can’t be tracked by movement and heart rate alone, but must take into account the patient’s brain waves.

Fitness trackers arent a substitute for a sleep study

Fitness trackers are definitely proving beneficial in making their wearers more aware of their sleep health, and how sleep health can affect their overall health. Fitness tracker aficionados have a fuller understanding of how much, or little, sleep they are getting and can take immediate steps to improve their sleep health. But, when it comes to diagnosing a sleep disorder, fitness trackers can provide false reassurance. A patient with Obstructive Sleep Apnea could stop breathing hundreds of times a night, but his tracker report he slept well because he stayed relatively still for seven hours. While fitness trackers provide helpful information about your movement and sleep, they are not a substitute for a traditional sleep study, or our take-home sleep test worn in the comfort of your own bed. If you snore, experience frequent unrefreshed sleep or are constantly exhausted during the daytime, you may have a sleep disorder, despite normal reports from your fitness tracker.

Improve your sleep health

If you, or your partner, think you could have a sleep disorder, take our quiz to determine your level of risk. Based on your results, we can consult with you about whether you may need a sleep study, and provide information about potential treatment, including our oral appliance therapy to treat mild-to-moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Give Caffaratti Dental Group Sleep Solutions a call today at 844-358-1555.