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How (and Why) to Track Your Sleep

Learn how you can track your sleep to improve your sleep habits and overall health.

Have you considered tracking your sleep? One of the latest trends in the health and wellness space is sleep tracking. After all, the average human spends almost a third of their life asleep or attempting to sleep—so why not try to learn as much as you can about your own sleep habits?[1] Sleep is a critical process for your body to rest and recover, so it’s important to make sure that your sleep is time well-spent. If you’re curious about the benefits of sleep tracking or want to learn how to track your sleep, look no further.

What is Sleep Tracking?

As the name suggests, sleep tracking is the process of documenting regular data about your sleep. This process allows you to compare both quantitative data—for instance, how many hours you slept—with qualitative data, like how well-rested you felt upon waking up in the morning.

Sleep tracking can help you identify patterns in your sleep schedule and pave the way for healthier sleep habits overall. If you’ve been struggling with your sleep hygiene or navigating fatigue or excessive sleepiness, tracking your sleep is a great step to take. After all, working towards a healthy sleep schedule is a powerful way to prioritize your health and wellness.

4 Ways To Track Your Sleep

There are a variety of ways to track your sleep. All of them provide valuable benefits, so it’s all about what fits into your lifestyle and personal preference. Here are four of the most common sleep tracking approaches.

Sleep Journal or Sleep Diary

One of the easiest ways to track your sleep is to create a sleep journal, which is used to record details about your sleep. You should aim to update this journal every day with relevant information. Of course, the level of detail you use to track your sleep is up to you. It may be helpful to focus your sleep diary on issues you have with your sleep, or sleep-related goals you'd like to achieve (like sleeping a minimum of 7 hours every night). Sleep journals are limited as a self-reported measure, but are generally regarded as valuable and effective in tracking sleep.[2] Self-reported data is often less accurate than data that is collected by a third party. Despite this, scientists have found that self-reported sleep data is still accurate enough to be useful.[3]

Sleep Journal Tracking Ideas
  • Sleep duration
  • The time you went to bed and woke up
  • How long it took to fall asleep
  • How often you woke up in the middle of the night
  • How long it took to fall back asleep
  • Mood before bed and upon waking up
  • How well-rested you feel
  • Pre-sleep activities (when you had dinner, did you watch TV beforehand, etc.)
Sleep Tracking App

Automated sleep tracking is more accessible than ever with sleep tracking apps that only require a smartphone to work. Modern smartphones typically come equipped with motion tracking sensors that help sleep tracking apps measure when you wake or toss and turn in bed. However, the methods most sleep tracking apps use to collect data about your sleep are not scientifically validated for accuracy, so take the data with a grain of salt.[4] That said, it can be a great way to easily start to collect basic information about your sleep. Consider pairing a smartphone sleep tracking app with a sleep journal to get a well-rounded view of your sleep quality.

Fitness Trackers

Another popular way to track sleep is via fitness trackers. Most fitness trackers are worn around your wrist and can track information like heart rate, step counts, and distance traveled. Some models are also equipped to track additional health metrics like sleep duration and quality. The accuracy of these devices varies, but research has shown that wearable fitness trackers can reasonably approximate sleep duration and basic sleep quality indicators.[5] Using a fitness tracker to track your sleep is a great daily reminder that sleep is an integral part of fitness and health.

Sleep Tracking Device

A dedicated sleep tracking device could be the right solution for those looking for the most accurate and detailed information about their sleep. These devices come in a variety of forms, including wearable sleep tracking devices or even sleep devices that go under your mattress to track your movement accurately. These devices can help dig into sleep interruptions or sleep quality issues missed by journaling or simpler sleep tracking apps.[6] Consider a wearable sleep tracker like Bodimetrics Smart Ring, which tracks many different wellness metrics—including finger temperature, pulse rate, and blood oxygen level—along with sleep data, which is used to create a sleep stage report. This report breaks down your total sleep time, time awake, REM sleep, light sleep, and deep sleep, giving you a much more nuanced view into the quality of your sleep. Investing in top-of-the-line sleep tracking products is a great way to boost your health with confidence.

If you’re experiencing more serious sleep issues, you may want to consider a sleep study. Sleep studies involve staying overnight at a medical facility to be supervised while you sleep. Sleep study patients have wired sensors placed all over their body to measure sleep stages, movements, eye movements, brain activity, and more. These studies can provide an even deeper level of insight into your sleep patterns and help you get back to a good night’s sleep.

The Benefits of Tracking Your Sleep

Tracking your sleep is an impactful way to take control of your sleep habits and work towards a healthy, a balanced lifestyle. While many people find additional personal benefits of tracking sleep, here are three primary reasons to sleep track.

  1. Understand your sleep habits. The first step to improving your sleep is understanding the factors that impact it most. Tracking your sleep can give you specific knowledge about what habits help enable—or get in the way of—a good night’s sleep. For example, by monitoring your sleep, you may discover that cutting screentime an hour before bed improves the quality of your sleep. Or, you may find that having big meals right before bed contributes to heartburn, and start to enjoy dinner earlier in the evening.
  2. Improve sleep quality. Sleep tracking is also a great way to quantifiably measure the impact of changes that you make to your sleep routine. As you identify what behaviors or habits give you restful and rejuvenating sleep, you’ll start to see improved sleep quality. With sleep tracking, you’ll be able to see a positive trend in your sleep quality over time—and you’ll also enjoy increased restfulness each morning.
  3. Prioritize overall health and wellness. Getting enough high-quality sleep is one of the best ways to create a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that over time, without enough sleep, people tend to be more likely to develop long-term health issues like diabetes and obesity?[7] Plus, adequate sleep has positive benefits on mood and energy levels.

Sleep is the foundation for a healthy lifestyle, and sleep tracking can help you strengthen it. Whether you’re using a sleep diary or wearable sleep tracker, sleep tracking can empower you to make better decisions and improve your sleep quality. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before making significant modifications to your sleep habits.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21056174/

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225935061_Sleep_Questionnaire_Versus_Sleep_Diary_Which_Measure_Is_Better

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785092/

[4] href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095881115300184

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6025478/

[6] https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/polysomnography/about/pac-20394877

[7] https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences