Have you ever wondered where that
mid-afternoon crash comes from? Most of us experience it, and it makes for a
miserable day when it hits. There’s a good chance that crash comes from you not
getting enough rest.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 3
adults don’t get enough sleep. That is a third of our population!
How are you supposed to fix that? Nobody has time for that! If this describes
you, maybe you should look into an AI-powered sleep tracker.
Types of Sleep Trackers
There are tons of different sleep trackers
on the market today. They range from IoT devices to apps on your phone.
Different sleep trackers use different methods to track your sleep, and to
varying degrees, one type of sleep tracker may work better for you than
One of the more popular types of devices to
track your sleep habits are smartphone apps. Apps typically use one of two
methods. They either record audio of you sleeping or use the phone’s internal
sensors to track movement.
Though phones popularized the off-the-shelf
methods of tracking sleep, they have varying degrees of accuracy. Analyzing
audio to detect sleep stages has been hotly debated. Today’s smartphones have
highly accurate and sensitive sensors, but a smartphone is still a 4-inch slab
of glass. It can only cover so much of a mattress.
Other IoT devices include things like
mattress pads and smart pillows. These types of devices detect movement. Thanks
again to the smartphone revolution; IoT devices have highly sensitive sensors
that can track even the most minute movement while a person is sleeping. Some
have the advantage of detecting pressure points as well.
Another popular option is fitness trackers
like the Fitbit and the Apple smartwatch. Though fitness trackers are designed
to track a lot more than sleep, they have the added functionality to track
heart rate, and in the future, body temperature as well. Since your body reacts
differently to the various stages of sleep cycles, wrist-worn fitness trackers
can have a clear advantage over other devices with the caveat of added
You have to weigh your options
for choosing a good sleep monitor. Each of the types of devices mentioned
above has its pros and cons. Not all types of sleep trackers are going to work
for everyone. That isn’t to say that
some sleep trackers are better than others, either. One thing that makes all of
these sleep trackers work amazingly well today is AI.
How AI Works
The primary goal of all sleep trackers is
to collect data. Different types of sleep trackers collect different types of
data. That data is then sent to an app or service typically so AI
can do its magic.
The companies and researchers behind these
products use AI to study people, improve their products, and find trends in
sleep habits. Since most of these devices are nothing more than some type of
gadget with sensors to collect data they don’t need to be refreshed
continuously. In this case, the AI-powered sleep trackers are the constant in
After researchers collect data from its
customers, it can use that data to improve their sleep trackers without
actually having to release new products. That’s because all the data is
analyzed and manipulated off the device and in the cloud. This data is
collected in aggregate from everyone that uses these sleep trackers. It’s
studied closely to track various patterns in sleep stages. As much as us humans
like to think of ourselves as individuals, we all tend to function pretty
similarly. It’s because of our biological similarities that medicine is able to
As sleep trackers collect more data, scientists
can tell if 6 or 8 hours of sleep is actually better for an individual.
Likewise, they can tell if an individual needs more or less REM or light sleep.
They can also study other things like whether getting 10,000 steps a day
actually produces better sleep patterns.
It takes time for the AI to do their job.
Unfortunately, a lot of people get sleep trackers thinking that their sleep
habits will drastically improve within a couple of weeks. Though some people
might experience such results, tracking your sleep habits is a marathon and not
a sprint. It takes a lot of data for AI-powered machines to fully understand
you and make recommendations on changes you should make in your life.
Privacy and Security
I mentioned before that these sleep
trackers collect our data and send it to the cloud
where researchers can analyze it. All of that data is collected and kept in one
giant database. Because of that, I want to address a topic that may be
important to people. That topic is privacy and security.
A lot of people are worried about sending
data about themselves to a company, especially when it’s very personal data
like their sleep habits and medical information. A lot of people worry about
data breaches or how a company may use their personal information against them.
I understand these worries, but I am going to say that the benefits far
outweigh the risks. Here’s why.
First, if we are going to better ourselves
and our society, and live fuller and happier lives, researchers need better
information to study. At no point in history have we ever had access to so much
information. Now that we have electronic sensors that are highly accurate and
very cheap, companies and researchers can create new products that are capable
of collecting a wide array of information. Thanks to devices like the Fitbit,
researchers can study correlations between sleep and exercise, heart rate and
sleep, calorie intake and sleep, the types of foods people eat and how it
affects sleep, how sleep effects stress levels throughout the day, at what ages
people need a certain amount of sleep, and more.
Second, all of this data is anonymized and
stored separately from our identities. It’s extremely difficult to figure out
what data belongs to specific individuals. Likewise, as a researcher myself, I
can comfortably say that researchers don’t care about particular individuals.
They prefer their spreadsheets and numbers.
You’re probably starting to ask if all this
data is anonymized, how sleep trackers are able to give accurate
recommendations for individuals. That’s the power of AI. AI can collect all
this data, analyze it, and understand the millions of different trends and
connections in that data. That data is stored in the app or the service you
use. So, let’s say that you weigh 150 pounds, you walked for 7,000 steps the
day before, and you only slept for seven hours last night. Your sleep tracker
can use that information, along with the data it collected while you were
sleep, to comfortably predict how well you slept and make recommendations to
sleep better the next night.
Most reputable companies take your personal
data very seriously. AI is too powerful of a tool that we should ignore how
well it can help track our sleep and improve our lives. Nonetheless, I thought
the topic would be worthwhile to bring up so that you can better understand it
to help weigh your options for choosing a good sleep monitor for you.
There are a lot of AI-powered sleep
trackers on the market today. Each one has its pros and cons. I started using
apps on my phone years ago and eventually moved to a Fitbit. I like my Fitbit a
lot, but I have friends who cannot sleep at night with theirs. They use
different products. Nonetheless, these devices have helped to drastically
improve our lives because of their AI-powered services. They have only gotten
better over time.
So which device is going to work best for
you? Let’s leave this article off with some very light advice.
Wearables are great because they can track
extra information like your heart rate and steps. They can also be
uncomfortable to wear at night.
Mattress pads can be highly accurate to
measure your sleep patterns, but they can be on the more expensive side if you
want to use them as part of a ‘sleep strategy’ where you use multiple devices.
The little bit of extra cost might be worth it to some, or a mattress pad might
be a good upgrade for people that already have other devices.
Sound measuring devices are a great, cheap
option to start with, but they can have drawbacks in noisy environments (like
when your old dog that snores like a World War 2 vet sleeps in your room).
Pillows are great devices to track things
like sleep and body temperature, but pillows are also highly subjective to
Whichever sleep tracker you choose, make
sure to do a little research into the device before you purchase it. Make sure
it’s going to match your lifestyle and meet your needs.