There are two types of people: those who monitor their every movement in the form of a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Garmin, and those who don’t. The wellness craze is real.
Fitness trackers became seriously popular 2016, but they’ve actually been around since the 1970s in the form of heart rate monitors. Today, we notice when people get that satisfying buzz on their wrist indicating that they’ve reached 10,000 steps and can relax for the rest of the day — while the rest of us are thinking about our next meal.
Monitoring your health is no bad thing. Bulky watches and apps on our phone are counting steps, checking heart rate, counting calories, recording workouts, and… tracking sleep. Yep, we want to track everything, including how much shut-eye they get each night. But is it safe to have something actively running on your body or next to you while you sleep? Let’s take a closer look.
How do fitness trackers monitor sleep?
Many fitness trackers offer a way to track sleep as it plays a huge role in our overall wellbeing. Sleep trackers will tell you how often you wake up in the middle of the night and how long it took you to fall asleep. It tracks sleep patterns over time so you can use this data to help you understand and adjust your own sleep habits.
But fitness trackers can’t detect the quality of sleep or when you enter REM cycle. Understanding when you enter sleep stages is important as that’s when your muscles repair, memory is consolidated, and hormones are released.
Are sleep trackers safe?
As sleep trackers measure movements over time, is it safe to be close to something emitting invasive radio frequencies?
“In general, mobile are definitely a very different beast than the low-powered wearables,” Fitbit CEO James Park told Time. “They transmit energies are orders of magnitude higher.”
Fitness trackers record movement with an accelerometer, which is an instrument that measures vibrations. So it assumes that a certain amount of movement means you’re awake, while zero movement means you’re sleeping. The device uses an actigraph to record the activity level of the body. This is how many sleep clinicians measure sleep. Keep in mind, this method of measuring sleep is useful but has its limitations.
If you want to get a more in-depth look at your sleep quality, you’d have to go to a sleep lab for that. Researchers use polysomnography, which uses different instruments to measure your brain waves, oxygen levels, eye movement, heart rate, and muscle activity when you’re asleep. This type of test is usually recommended for people who suffer narcolepsy, sleep apnoea, REM sleep behaviour disorder, or chronic insomnia.
Should we be concerned about the harmful effects of wearable devices?
According to Dr Weil, the non-ionising radiation emitted by trackers and wearable technology is similar to but less energetic than that of mobile phones. So basically, non-ionizing radiation is so weak, it's not a huge health concern.
Low-frequency waves from your tracker may only be harmful when the fitness tracker on your wrist is close to your head when you sleep. The American Cancer Society says that when a phone is held at the side of your head, the greater a person’s expected exposure to radio frequency energy.
BUT according to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
So, no health problems have yet been linked to radio frequency energy of mobile phone use – which offers some relief if you're a chronic worrier.
When it comes to sleep trackers, a bigger concern is that the devices overestimate sleep, which can skew your overall sleep data. There’s not so much concern about it causing cancer, but more that its activity tracking metrics aren't always accurate.
If you really want a good measure of your sleeping habits, visit a sleep lab where they can test you for certain sleep disorders. Otherwise, fitness trackers will simply measure your sleep patterns using an accelerometer.
If you're still seeking a good night's sleep, shop the Ecosa mattress and enjoy adjustable firmness, gel cooling technology and cloud-like comfort.