Have you ever wondered where that mid-afternoon crash comes from? Most of us experience it, and it makes for a miserable day when it hits. There’s a good chance that crash comes from you not getting enough rest.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. That is a third of our population! How are you supposed to fix that? Nobody has time for that! If this describes you, maybe you should look into an AI-powered sleep tracker.
Types of Sleep Trackers
There are tons of different sleep trackers on the market today. They range from IoT devices to apps on your phone. Different sleep trackers use different methods to track your sleep, and to varying degrees, one type of sleep tracker may work better for you than another.
One of the more popular types of devices to track your sleep habits are smartphone apps. Apps typically use one of two methods. They either record audio of you sleeping or use the phone’s internal sensors to track movement.
Though phones popularized the off-the-shelf methods of tracking sleep, they have varying degrees of accuracy. Analyzing audio to detect sleep stages has been hotly debated. Today’s smartphones have highly accurate and sensitive sensors, but a smartphone is still a 4-inch slab of glass. It can only cover so much of a mattress.
Other IoT devices include things like mattress pads and smart pillows. These types of devices detect movement. Thanks again to the smartphone revolution; IoT devices have highly sensitive sensors that can track even the most minute movement while a person is sleeping. Some have the advantage of detecting pressure points as well.
Another popular option is fitness trackers like the Fitbit and the Apple smartwatch. Though fitness trackers are designed to track a lot more than sleep, they have the added functionality to track heart rate, and in the future, body temperature as well. Since your body reacts differently to the various stages of sleep cycles, wrist-worn fitness trackers can have a clear advantage over other devices with the caveat of added discomfort.
You have to weigh your options for choosing a good sleep monitor. Each of the types of devices mentioned above has its pros and cons. Not all types of sleep trackers are going to work for everyone. That isn’t to say that some sleep trackers are better than others, either. One thing that makes all of these sleep trackers work amazingly well today is AI.
How AI Works
The primary goal of all sleep trackers is to collect data. Different types of sleep trackers collect different types of data. That data is then sent to an app or service typically so AI can do its magic.
The companies and researchers behind these products use AI to study people, improve their products, and find trends in sleep habits. Since most of these devices are nothing more than some type of gadget with sensors to collect data they don’t need to be refreshed continuously. In this case, the AI-powered sleep trackers are the constant in this equation.
After researchers collect data from its customers, it can use that data to improve their sleep trackers without actually having to release new products. That’s because all the data is analyzed and manipulated off the device and in the cloud. This data is collected in aggregate from everyone that uses these sleep trackers. It’s studied closely to track various patterns in sleep stages. As much as us humans like to think of ourselves as individuals, we all tend to function pretty similarly. It’s because of our biological similarities that medicine is able to exist.
As sleep trackers collect more data, scientists can tell if 6 or 8 hours of sleep is actually better for an individual. Likewise, they can tell if an individual needs more or less REM or light sleep. They can also study other things like whether getting 10,000 steps a day actually produces better sleep patterns.
It takes time for the AI to do their job. Unfortunately, a lot of people get sleep trackers thinking that their sleep habits will drastically improve within a couple of weeks. Though some people might experience such results, tracking your sleep habits is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes a lot of data for AI-powered machines to fully understand you and make recommendations on changes you should make in your life.
Privacy and Security
I mentioned before that these sleep trackers collect our data and send it to the cloud where researchers can analyze it. All of that data is collected and kept in one giant database. Because of that, I want to address a topic that may be important to people. That topic is privacy and security.
A lot of people are worried about sending data about themselves to a company, especially when it’s very personal data like their sleep habits and medical information. A lot of people worry about data breaches or how a company may use their personal information against them. I understand these worries, but I am going to say that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Here’s why.
First, if we are going to better ourselves and our society, and live fuller and happier lives, researchers need better information to study. At no point in history have we ever had access to so much information. Now that we have electronic sensors that are highly accurate and very cheap, companies and researchers can create new products that are capable of collecting a wide array of information. Thanks to devices like the Fitbit, researchers can study correlations between sleep and exercise, heart rate and sleep, calorie intake and sleep, the types of foods people eat and how it affects sleep, how sleep effects stress levels throughout the day, at what ages people need a certain amount of sleep, and more.
Second, all of this data is anonymized and stored separately from our identities. It’s extremely difficult to figure out what data belongs to specific individuals. Likewise, as a researcher myself, I can comfortably say that researchers don’t care about particular individuals. They prefer their spreadsheets and numbers.
You’re probably starting to ask if all this data is anonymized, how sleep trackers are able to give accurate recommendations for individuals. That’s the power of AI. AI can collect all this data, analyze it, and understand the millions of different trends and connections in that data. That data is stored in the app or the service you use. So, let’s say that you weigh 150 pounds, you walked for 7,000 steps the day before, and you only slept for seven hours last night. Your sleep tracker can use that information, along with the data it collected while you were sleep, to comfortably predict how well you slept and make recommendations to sleep better the next night.
Most reputable companies take your personal data very seriously. AI is too powerful of a tool that we should ignore how well it can help track our sleep and improve our lives. Nonetheless, I thought the topic would be worthwhile to bring up so that you can better understand it to help weigh your options for choosing a good sleep monitor for you.
There are a lot of AI-powered sleep trackers on the market today. Each one has its pros and cons. I started using apps on my phone years ago and eventually moved to a Fitbit. I like my Fitbit a lot, but I have friends who cannot sleep at night with theirs. They use different products. Nonetheless, these devices have helped to drastically improve our lives because of their AI-powered services. They have only gotten better over time.
So which device is going to work best for you? Let’s leave this article off with some very light advice.
Wearables are great because they can track extra information like your heart rate and steps. They can also be uncomfortable to wear at night.
Mattress pads can be highly accurate to measure your sleep patterns, but they can be on the more expensive side if you want to use them as part of a ‘sleep strategy’ where you use multiple devices. The little bit of extra cost might be worth it to some, or a mattress pad might be a good upgrade for people that already have other devices.
Sound measuring devices are a great, cheap option to start with, but they can have drawbacks in noisy environments (like when your old dog that snores like a World War 2 vet sleeps in your room).
Pillows are great devices to track things like sleep and body temperature, but pillows are also highly subjective to comfort.
Whichever sleep tracker you choose, make sure to do a little research into the device before you purchase it. Make sure it’s going to match your lifestyle and meet your needs.