Sleep trackers and sleep testing

Getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders for our overall health. It can make us more alert and more creative, strengthening our hearts, moods, and minds. It’s not a surprise, then, that people have become obsessed with tracking their sleep. Nearly 22 percent of adults currently use a wearable sleep tracking device, or use phone apps that sleep with them in their beds.

Basic sleep trackers tell you two things: how long you’ve slept and the quality of your sleep. Many track movements and try to attach a meaning to the quality of sleep from that. But anyone who has children, pets, or a partner who gets up frequently during the night, knows that movements can’t always translate to accurate information about one’s own body activity at night. That’s one reason why sleep specialists say sleep trackers are fairly inaccurate, and they also don’t offer a deep, comprehensive look at sleep patterns. The use of sleep trackers should be done with a clear understanding that these are limited tools that at best can tell users a bit more about sleep duration and sleep timing. 

The best way to distinguish between the various stages of sleep is by observing brainwaves, not movements. In a sleep lab, sleep technicians look at brainwaves, breathing, heart rate, body and eye movement, and oxygen levels, to monitor sleep and diagnose a sleep disorder. Sleep tracker apps can’t provide this detailed, full picture.

However, trackers do help users pay better attention to their sleep health, and that’s not a bad thing. Users just have to be careful that the extra attention doesn’t also invite extra anxiety. Some users, once they start monitoring their sleep, become more prone to overthinking it, worrying that they are not sleeping enough or that they’re sleeping too much. 

Mille Lacs Health System will have a new sleep lab with their Next Chapter building expansion. Until then, sleep studies will be conducted in the Holy Cross Crosier Special Guest Rooms. Patients will register for their sleep study at the main registration desk at the Onamia clinic and park by the Holy Cross entry. The sleep testing staff will meet the patients at doors 102/104 (church entrance). “We are grateful to the Crosiers for sharing their space so the sleep testing can continue to be done close to home,” said Vicki Engmark, Sleep Lab Manager.