Getting enough sleep is an important aspect of health, and now we know more about the science of sleep than ever before. An important factor in weight loss, illness recovery, and stress management, sleep is studied by researchers across the globe with the aim of discovering how much sleep is needed, why people can’t sleep, and how to maintain good sleep habits.
With wearable technology, smart phone sensors, and in-bed sensors, many apps are available to help you do a little sleep research of your own. So, which apps are best for tracking sleep? Here are a few we like and a little bit about how they keep track of your sleep cycles.
How apps track your sleep
Sleep, and the quality of it, are difficult to track. Most sleep apps only measure when you’re asleep or awake. Wearable tech (like watches) and smartphone apps track your sleep by recognizing movement or sounds during the night. While sleep labs monitor movement, they also measure other body functions like breathing, eye movement, and brain activity. Some devices incorporate heart rate information to estimate which sleep stage you’re in.
Sleep trackers are good at giving you an overall picture of your sleep patterns, for example, how much sleep you’re getting on average each night.
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep makes up about one quarter of your sleep cycle. You generally enter REM sleep 70-90 minutes after you fall asleep and then cycle back through it several times over the course of the night. REM sleep is where you dream, and it’s thought to facilitate the process of storing memories, learning, and balancing your mood.
Sleep tracking apps for wearable technology
1. Sleep Diary is an iOS app for the iPhone and the Apple Watch. You track sleep time by starting and ending your bedtime manually on your watch. You can also set wake up and bedtime alerts based on your desired sleep duration. The watch is capable of measuring your heart rate data, in addition to tracking movement. Sleep Diary can operate independently from your phone, but when it does connect, it sends information to Apple HealthKit. Sleep Diary is free to download.
2. Sleep as Android is an Android sleep tracker that can catch sleep talk and snoring with your Android’s microphone. It also has a smart alarm; it finds the optimal moment to wake you up in light sleep and includes ways to make sure you wake up, like solving math problems or counting sheep to end the alarm. Sleep as Android gives you sleep deficit stats and bedtime notifications, and it integrates with Pebble, Android Wear, Google Fit, S Health and Philips Hue.
3. Fitbit’s new Alta HR band also uses heart rate tracking to monitor sleep. The sleep stage-tracking tool gives you detailed graphs of your sleep stats, including sleep duration in each zone. The app will also recommend a personalized sleep schedule and help you learn how your sleep trends compare to others of the same age and gender, based on Fitbit’s database of sleepers.
Once you’re armed with all the sleep data you can handle, put it to good use and start improving your sleep habits. Check out Serta’s top 10 tips for falling asleep fast to get started.