Snooze bet­ter with sleep tracker apps

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology -

SAY your alarm clock rings in the morn­ing and you wake up un­re­freshed. Did you go to bed too late? Are you sim­ply a night owl? Would it have been bet­ter if the alarm had gone off 10 min­utes ear­lier and didn’t in­ter­rupt your dream?

De­vel­op­ers of sleep tracker apps for smart­phones say the pro­grams can an­swer ques­tions like these and help you to sleep more soundly.

But do they re­ally? Some apps can do more than oth­ers.

The sim­plest is the pre­in­stalled iPhone Clock app on iOS 10, which has a Bed­time tab. The app re­minds the user when it’s time to go to bed and mea­sures sleep du­ra­tion. The ad-funded Sleep Bet­ter (iOS and An­droid) app and the Sleep Cy­cle Alarm Clock (iOS and An­droid) app also mon­i­tor move­ment dur­ing sleep as well as the ef­fects of fac­tors such as ex­er­cise, stress and diet. Sleep Bet­ter also pro­vides a place to keep a dream jour­nal.

“You’re sup­posed to put the smart­phone be­side your pil­low,” ex­plains Ju­lia Struck of the Ger­man com­puter mag­a­zine Com­puter Bild. “By mon­i­tor­ing move­ment of the mat­tress, the app as­sesses the qual­ity of your sleep.”

It does this via the smart­phone’s ac­celerom­e­ter – in air­plane mode as well, which many users switch to at night so as to sleep undis­turbed.

In ad­di­tion to mon­i­tor­ing move­ment, apps such as Sleep­Bot (iOS and An­droid) and Pil­low (iOS) track bed­room noise to let users know if they snore, talk in their sleep or sleep less soundly if it’s noisy in the house or out­side.

When users get up in the morn­ing, the apps show de­tailed move­ment and sound graphs so that they can see whether there’s a link be­tween noise and move­ment dur­ing sleep.

The app SnoreLab (iOS and An­droid) is de­signed to help users find ef­fec­tive ways to re­duce their snor­ing.

If you reg­u­larly use a sleep tracker app for a sub­stan­tial pe­riod of time, you’ll def­i­nitely learn more about your sleep habits and how your daily rou­tine af­fects your sleep. Do you sleep worse af­ter a stress­ful day, and bet­ter af­ter a glass of red wine or a long walk?

Dr Ingo Fi­etze, di­rec­tor of the Sleep Medicine Cen­tre at Charite uni­ver­sity hospi­tal in Ber­lin, says apps that make peo­ple more aware of how they sleep are a good thing.

“You should sleep an av­er­age of 7.5 hours a day,” he re­marks. “Us­ing these apps, you mon­i­tor your sleep du­ra­tion and can see at the end of the week whether you got your tar­get amount.”

Fi­etze adds, how­ever, that us­ing a sleep tracker app isn’t com­pa­ra­ble to an ex­am­i­na­tion in a sleep lab­o­ra­tory, which also mea­sures brain and mus­cle ac­tiv­ity, along with eye move­ments, dur­ing sleep.

A fea­ture that seems to be es­pe­cially pop­u­lar and is found on al­most all sleep tracker apps is a “smart alarm”. It doesn’t wake up the user at a spe­cific time, but in­stead dur­ing his or her light­est sleep phase within a 30-minute win­dow that ends at the user’s set alarm time. The fea­ture’s de­vel­op­ers claim that it helps the user wake up feel­ing well­rested.

“The best way to start the day is un­doubt­edly to wake up on your own, re­freshed,” says Dr Al­fred Wi­ater, pres­i­dent of the Ger­man Sleep So­ci­ety. If you have to get up by a cer­tain time though, a smart alarm is a good choice, he adds.

As for the ef­fi­cacy of sleep tracker apps in com­bat­ing sleep dis­or­ders, he warns that they were of­ten in­ac­cu­rate and could ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem in some cases.

Struck brings up data pri­vacy con­cerns. “If you use a smart­phone If you reg­u­larly use a sleep tracker app for a sub­stan­tial pe­riod of time, you’ll def­i­nitely learn more about your sleep habits and how your daily rou­tine af­fects your sleep. — Pho­tos: dpa sleep tracker app, you should be aware that the data are be­ing col­lected,” she says. “The app knows how much you move and how long you sleep,” and it’s un­clear what hap­pens to the data since “the providers of­ten se­cure them­selves ex­ten­sive rights to them.”

To use all of an app’s fea­tures, you of­ten have to reg­is­ter with your name, sex and birth date in ad­di­tion to your e-mail ad­dress.

The bot­tom line is that sleep tracker apps can fa­mil­iarise you with your sleep be­hav­iour and help you get more rest­ful sleep – if you don’t have chronic sleep prob­lems. If you do, Fi­etze says, the apps are no sub­sti­tute for med­i­cal treat­ment. “Per­sis­tently dis­turbed sleep calls for a sleep ex­pert.” — dpa

De­vel­op­ers of sleep tracker apps for smart­phones say the pro­gram can help you to sleep more soundly. But can you re­ally be­lieve their claims?

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