Apps That Monitor Sleep Are Not Effective

There is a wide range of apps on a smartphone or smartwatch that claim to be able to analyze sleep patterns. But according to Dutch researchers, these are generally not or hardly reliable in practice. Many apps would hardly have anything in common with how someone actually sleeps. 

Apps That Monitor Sleep


 
According to Eus van Someren, group leader of the Sleep & Cognition group at the Netherlands Brain Institute, no sleep application is properly measured by any application. You can only measure sleep stages by sticking electrodes on the skull that measure brain waves. That of course does not happen with any sleep app or smart watch.
 
According to the researchers, apps can measure how long someone sleeps, but this also does not always prove reliable in practice. It would not be the sensors that are used, but rather the software that makes sleep analyzes. UvA researcher Lucia Talamini states that smartwatches are generally slightly more reliable than apps that work via a smartphone. The telephone with the sleeping app on it will lie next to you on the mattress during the night. The sensors do not measure the movement of your arm, but of your bed.
 
The Dutch Consumers' Association warned earlier this year about the use of sleep apps. According to the organization, these apps are usually not reliable. 
 
The sensors in wearables measure movement. With a lot of exercise you are awake or tossing around. If you lie still for a long time, you probably sleep well. That data can be viewed in the corresponding app. You can often see how long your deep and light sleep lasted. Sometimes there is also an alarm clock function. Then you will be awakened (around the time you specified) in your light sleep. Some wearables are a little too large to sleep comfortably with.
 
But if you lie still, that does not always mean that you are sleeping. On the other hand, sleeping experts indicate that restless sleepers do not have to sleep badly. A lot of exercise does not necessarily mean that you are awake. Movement of a partner can also be accidentally registered. The measurements are therefore not really reliable.
 
Many people feel they could sleep better or like to find out more about their sleep. The apps show how much you slept and how the night went, usually in the form of a graph. You can also view overviews per week or month and thus gain insight into your sleep pattern.
So you can see which nights you slept less well (insofar as that is reliable). You may not sleep well after intensive exercise, . This way you can adjust your habits if you want to sleep better.
Research has also indicated that people feel worse if an app tells you that you did not sleep well (and vice versa). It can also have a positive influence. Perhaps you notice that you do not sleep enough during the week and you go to bed a bit earlier. It therefore differs per person and can turn out both positively and negatively.
 
In the event of real sleeping problems, the experts recommend seeking help. Because gaining insight in this way is not enough to get out of the vicious circle. By measuring brain activity and breathing, they can also analyze sleep much better.
For that reason, the Consumers' Association advises against the purchase of wearables when it comes to only measuring sleep. 

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