Friday, July 19, 2019

The Sad Truth About Sleep-Tracking Devices and Apps

Brian X. Chen:

Ultimately, the technology did not help me sleep more. It didn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know, which is that I average about five and a half hours of slumber a night. And the data did not help me answer what I should do about my particular sleep problems. In fact, I’ve felt grumpier since I started these tests.

That mirrored the conclusions of a recent study from Rush University Medical College and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Researchers there noticed patients complaining about sleep data collected by apps and devices from Nike, Apple, Fitbit and others.

In their study, the researchers warned that sleep-tracking tech could provide inaccurate data and worsen insomnia by making people obsessed with achieving perfect slumber, a condition they called orthosomnia. It was one of the latest pieces of research supporting the idea that health apps don’t necessarily make people healthier.

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A little note besides the topic:

I'm using an iOS app called Sleep Cycle occasionally. It also monitors sleep, but mainly for a different purpose: To figure out when you're in deep vs light sleep, so that it can wake you at the right time (you can define a time window, e.g. of 20-30 minutes for that). Also, it can tell me how often and long I snore (which could affect one's sleep quality if it's too much, at which point one should look into doing something about that).

anonymous sleeper

Longtime user of sleep cycle here, over 2,000 nights recorded. The app works nicely for me to track light vs deep sleep without wearing a watch. Snoring detection also works well. But I'm on the lookout for a new sleep app. They recently upgraded the app, overhauling the UI and it is an astonishing downgrade. Needless animations, removed statistics, cartoon-like interface, information split into multiple views. It's so bad I restored my phone from a backup, the first time I have done that to downgrade an app. Also, years ago without warning the developer paywalled numerous features in an update, another user-hostile move. I like the app but the developers seem pretty arrogant. Here's a screenshot one reviewer posted showing the difference.

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