Sleep Tracking via Your Smartphone
Tuesday, August 27 2013 Natasha Tracy
Recently I was turned on to one of the coolest apps I’ve seen – it’s an app for your smartphone that tracks your sleep. This magical piece of software records your sleep, the sleep phases and any sounds, as well as does a myriad of other things.
This is incredibly useful to a person with a mental illness. People with mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder are known to have problems with their sleep and this application can help you pinpoint what’s going on.
Theory Behind the App
There is a device used in psychiatry (and other areas of medicine) that measures your movement and sound during sleep. This is a fancy little device that contains accelerometers in it. Accelerometers are orientation sensors that tell the device exactly what position it’s in in three-dimensions. And, as it turns out, your smartphone has these sensors as well, so the people who have developed the application have used these sensors to create the same kind of sleep graph the psychiatric device does (although with a somewhat greater degree of error).
Using the Sleep-Tracking App
It’s easy to use the app. All you do is set your phone down on your mattress beside you at night and set the app to record. That’s it.
What a Sleep Graph Tells You
In the morning, you get a sleep graph that will tell you what you’ve been doing all night. The peaks are where you were moving and thus in light sleep and the troughs were when you were motionless and thus in deep sleep.
Sleep theory varies, but basically in healthy sleep:
- There are 5 cycles
- The first sleep cycle lasts between 70-100 minutes
- The following sleep cycles are longer but lighter
- You want as much deep sleep as possible (say, over 65%)
Tracking your sleep consistently can tell you what factors influence your sleep. For example, if you go to bed at 10 PM, what does your sleep graph look like? If you drink alcohol? If you drink coffee? If you sleep with a partner? If you sleep with earplugs? And so on.
This is great to know because getting more deep sleep will generally make you feel better from a psychiatric point of view and it may surprise you to know how poor your sleep currently is. (And people love having the noise-tracking feature turned on because they can hear if they talk in their sleep and what they say.)
I recommend using the app consistently for a few weeks and then trying to use the data to maximize your deep sleep. (Cutting down on the coffee and eliminating alcohol, for example, can improve almost anyone’s sleep.)