Lately many patients come into my office wearing some type of sleep tracking device. The person is usually concerned about the quality of sleep recorded on the device. Most sleep trackers are good at monitoring total sleep time at best. Details such as the percentage of deep sleep (slow wave sleep) or the onset of dream sleep (REM sleep) are less reliable. Here are some examples of why I'm concerned about people putting so much faith into a sleep tracker.
A 78 yr old patient refused to believe her sleep tracker was not accurate, even after I explained to her that it is highly unlikely for an adult, especially a person older than 50, to have 50% of the total sleep as deep sleep. When I reviewed the polysomnogram (PSG) results with another patient, the patient refused to believe the results of the polysomnogram. Unbeknownst to me, he had worn a sleep tracker during the in-lab, full montage polysomnogram attended by a certified sleep technician and performed in an accredited sleep lab. The PSG results did not match information recorded on his sleep tracker. I didn't mind that he wore a sleep tracker during the PSG. But I must admit I was surprised at how confident he was about the information recorded by his device and not information recorded on the $15,000-20,000 medical equipment.
I'm not against using a sleep tracker but some people carry the idea to extremes. When you pay more attention to your sleep tracker than how you actually feel, you might be missing the purpose of wearing a sleep tracker. Some people become anxious and worried about sleep tracker data and this becomes the impetus for insomnia.
You can check the accuracy of your sleep tracker by recording an old fashion sleep journal. Mark when you go to bed and when you wake up. You can look at the clock for these times. Then turn the clock away. In the morning estimate how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times did you wake up, how long were you awake. At the end of you sleep period note how you feel upon awakening: tired, slightly tired, very tired, well rested. Ideally, you should do this for two weeks. If you just can't leave the sleep tracker alone for two weeks, record a manual sleep diary for at least one week. Do not review the diary. Put the diary away. Next step is to wear your sleep tracker.
Now wear your sleep tracker for two weeks and at the same time record another manual sleep diary. At the end of two weeks, compare both sleep diaries and the data from you sleep tracker. This exercise will give you some idea about the accuracy of your sleep tracker. The most reliable way to check your sleep tracker is to wear it while having a PSG.
If your sleep is fragmented and of poor quality, review my posts for DIY sleep tips. If your sleep does not improve after two weeks of home remedies, see a sleep doctor.