Rich Jaroslovsky recently reviewed a few sleep tracking devices for Bloomberg including the Zeo, Lark, and Sleep Tracker Elite (see here for an NPR interview with Jaroslovsky about the story). In his article, he notes some advantages and disadvantages of each device, but he ultimately concludes that he slept better without the devices than with them. This is not necessarily surprising given that: A) the devices are not really intended to make one sleep any better per se and B) it probably takes some time to get used to sleeping with a new headband or wristband.
Nonetheless, Jaroslovsky’s comment is important. What is good sleep and how can we get more of it? Interestingly enough, I think that the devices that he has reviewed provide a first step in answering these questions. That is because to better understand how what we do impacts how we feel (with regard to sleep or anything else), we must be able to reliably track and analyze both. These devices, which allow us to easily collect data on when we go to sleep, when we wake up, how often we wake during the night, how much time we spend in different stages of sleep, etc., etc., give us lots of objective information regarding our behaviors. When coupled with a sleep log or diary of how we feel each morning (some people keep this information as part of their workout log), we can start to draw relationships between the sleep behaviors and the sleep outcomes (i.e., how tired or rested one feels). When all of this data collection and analysis can be done without any manual data entry or number crunching by the user, the cost of learning more about your sleep and well being is lowered substantially.