Sleep is an essential part of our survival. A restorative, restful sleep helps us maintain homeostasis and keeps us mentally sharp and physically and mentally healthy. Sometimes, however, we struggle with insomnia which can be a temporary or a chronic issue that affects how we go to sleep and/or stay asleep. The fitbit sleep tracker can help.
Although the amount of sleep we need varies depending on age, if you find you’re not getting enough sleep, finding the kind of sleep problems you’re experiencing is key to finding a solution.
Sleep Deprivation at a Glance
- The American Sleep Association reports that 50 to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder with insomnia being the most common. Short term issues reported by about 30 percent of adults and chronic insomnia by 10 percent.
- The Centers For Disease Control reports that one in three adults do not get enough sleep.
- Insomnia is not the only sleep disorder that deprives adults of a good night’s sleep. 25 million Americans struggle with obstructive sleep apnea.
- The U.S. loses as much as $411 billion each year and approximately 1.23 million working days due to insufficient sleep.
Effects of Insufficient Sleep
Sleep deprivation has a number of negative health impacts. Experts report not getting adequate sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Lack of sleep is also associated with:
- Type 2 DM
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Poor immune function
- Lower sex drive
- Decreased memory
The Stages of Sleep
Sleeping is more complicated than you may think. There are many stages of sleep that are important for the quality rest for your overall health.
Our sleep cycles are usually 90 to 110 minutes and include two states and four stages. The two states are REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state and NREM (non-REM states).
NREM State of Sleep
NREM states include three different sleeping stages:
- Stage 1 – A light sleep phase where you may drift in and out of sleep and are easily awakened. During this stage, your body begins to relax, eyes may move slowly and muscle activity decreases. This stage of sleep accounts for five to 10 percent of sleep.
- Stage 2 – Those in stage two are more difficult to awaken and muscle activity further decreases while conscious awareness disappears. This stage is where 45 to 55 percent of sleep occurs.
- Stage 3 & 4– This stage is considered the most restful and restorative stage of sleep. During stage three, our brains begin producing Delta waves and we become more difficult to wake up. It’s during this stage of sleep that “the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.” Approximately 15 to 25 percent of sleep is done in this stage.
REM State of Sleep
Perhaps the most commonly known state of sleep – REM – is when the eyes begin to move rapidly (rapid eye movement), heart rate and breathing increase, and REM brain waves begin to move rapidly, comparable to someone who is awake. During REM sleep, your brain processes information from the previous day to help you prepare for the new day, contributing to long term memory and learning.
This four-stage cycle of sleep continues but the length of time of REM and NREM stages will change throughout the night.
Technology: Friend and Foe
Despite the countless ways that technology has increased our productivity and simplified our lives, it has also been found to have adverse effects on our sleep patterns. From blue lights to wifi signals to notifications, 90 percent of us use technology in the hour before bed.
Aside from unexpected (or expected) sounds of notifications for texts, emails, or phone calls, the bright lights emitted by electronic devices block the release of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the brain that helps us fall asleep.
There are ways, however, that technology can lend us a hand with our sleep schedules and cycles with devices such as the Fitbit Sleep Tracker. These wearable devices have been shown to effectively help individuals measure their sleep patterns, similar to actigraph devices that provide information about sleep parameters.
Fitbit Sleep Tracking Capabilities
Where measuring different stages of sleep generally includes electrodes and EKGs, today devices such as the Fitbit Sleep Tracker can help you determine your stages of sleep based on heart rate alone, according to one study, because our heart rates vary as we sleep. This can help you to determine which stages of sleep you are most lacking and how much truly restorative sleep you are getting.
Fitbit’s sleep tracking capabilities utilize movement and heart rate tracking to measure your sleep stages. When you have not moved for approximately an hour, Fitbit assumes you are sleeping. When you’re sleeping, your heart rate will change – known as heart rate variability – which is an important part of our autonomic nervous system.
Fitbit sleep tracking can differentiate between three types of sleep:
- Light Sleep – The period of time when you may fall in and out of sleep.
- Deep Sleep – The period of sleep when you are more difficult to awaken, your heart rate slows, and muscles relax.
- REM Sleep – The sleep period where most dreams occur since the brain is more active, heart rate increases, and breathing becomes irregular.
Since each sleep stage is responsible for different functions of the body – from memory and mood to cognition, tissue repair, and immune system – understanding which of these sleep stages you have and which ones you don’t, can help you develop ways to improve your overall well-being.
Learn More About the Fitbit Sleep Tracker
What’s great about the Fitbit sleep tracker, is its simplicity in exchange for the valuable information you receive just by wearing it to bed. In addition to seeing your own sleep patterns, Fitbit provides benchmark data so you can see how your sleep stages measure up to others in your demographic.
It’s important to know the data collected by the Fitbit sleep tracker is helpful. However, it should not be used in place of a comprehensive sleep study. If you’re experiencing unusual sleeping patterns, you may need to speak with your healthcare provider.