Fitness trackers asleep on the job when monitoring your sleep

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Fitness tracking devices  know how long you have been in bed, but fail to monitor total sleep time, sleep efficiency and how long it takes to fall asleep, new research has discovered.

Specialists at Greenslopes Private Hospital’s Sleep and Lung Centre, along with the University of Queensland and Snore Australia, studied the accuracy of five different sleep and fitness devices by comparing them to a sleep study (polysomnography).

Greenslopes Private Hospital Respiratory and Sleep Physician, Dr Sean Tolhurst said the devices were useful for measuring the amount of time spent in bed, but little else in sleep patterns.

“They were not particularly useful for calculating sleep onset – in other words, how long it takes for a person to fall asleep.

“This means although a person may be lying awake in bed for an hour before dozing off, a tracking device will count some of this period as sleep.

“We also found the tracking devices were not especially accurate at picking up short periods of wakefulness, like tossing and turning,” said Dr Tolhurst.

Dr Tolhurst said the results confirm that polysomnography is still the most reliable method for diagnosing and monitoring sleep disturbances, but tracking devices can still provide some guidance.

“We now know that these tracking devices can be used to help us gain better insight into our patients’ day-to-day sleeping habits when they are at home over a period of several weeks or longer.

“We used to ask our patients to keep a sleep diary, but these tracking devices are accurate enough to produce a creditable snapshot of their sleeping trends over time,” Dr Tolhurst said.

The new research will be presented at the SLEEP 2017 conference in Boston in June.

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