The other day I noticed an advert on Facebook, advertising sleep trackers. I thought, do I need a sleep tracker? Does anyone need a sleep tracker?
I read a bit more, to find out what the sleep tracker was all about to see if I had missed the point of it, or if there was some useful and practical function I had overlooked.
The sleep tracker in question claimed to let me know when I fell asleep, when I woke up, and when I tossed and turned in the night. It also claimed to correlate external factors such as temperature, humidity, and the impact of external noises on my sleep, such as a car alarm going off, with my sleep pattern and quality. I don’t know about you, but this started to ring some alarm bells with me.
I am fairly technologically savvy. I have my laptop, my smart phone and my digital camera, which I love and hate in equal measures. Certain things elude me like WhatsApp and Snapchat, and don’t even ask me how to work our TV box. What I am saying is I am no Luddite, but I’m definitely of the opinion that technology should probably have peaked some time ago, certainly before we got to the point where companies are trying to sell us sleep trackers.
My distrust of sleep trackers stems from three and a half decades of trying to get the most sleep as possible, or trying to function on as little sleep as possible. I’m pretty sure this qualifies me as some kind of sleep expert.
Here are the things I know about sleep:
- If a car alarm goes off, it will wake me and I will curse loudly and wish a plague on whoever’s house the car belongs to.
- If the neighbourhood cats and/or dogs start fighting, it will wake me and there will be profanities.
- If my partner starts snoring or talking in his sleep, it will wake me and I will elbow him in the ribs until he stops.
- If the phone goes in the night, even if it’s the wrong number, I will assume the worst, and then not be able to sleep for the rest of the night for worrying about everyone I’ve ever loved.
- If it’s too warm, I will not sleep. I will be a grumpy sweaty mess and toss and turn all night, for there is nothing worse than being too warm in bed.
- If it’s too cold, I will add layers and layers of blankets and dressing gowns until it looks like there’s been a party at my house and I’ve fallen asleep under all of the coats.
- If one/both of my children wake me I will attend to whatever middle of the night emergency it might be. Then I shall mentally make a record so that when they are teenagers I can wake them up ridiculously early and tell them it was payback for that time in 2016 when they said there was a rabbit bouncing in their bedroom, even though there is no pet rabbit.
- If I’ve had a few drinks I know I will wake up at 4 am all bushy tailed and be unable to get back to sleep, and immediately regret this come 7 am.
- If I wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep my mind will run through every single embarrassing or cringe worthy situation I’ve ever been in, or any situation I could have handled better. 3 am knows all my secrets.
- If I have my recurring anxiety dream that I have an essay due that I have not written, or an exam that I have not studied for, then I will wake up in a panic, and spend the next day feeling like I’ve forgotten to do something terribly important.
- If I cannot get to sleep at night I will toss and turn, generally with this song stuck in my head (damn those Backstreet Boys).
- If I have a good night’s sleep I will wake up with the opening lines of this song running through my head, feeling like I can take on the world.
The point I’m making is that in answer to the question ‘do I need a sleep tracker?‘, no, I don’t need a sleep tracker, because I know the precise outcome of every single variable that could possibly affect my sleep.
I also know that most of these things are outwith my control. A tracker is not going to stop external factors interfering with my sleep. Although I would pay good money for something that promised to stop the neighbourhood cats from fighting, stop my partner snoring, and stop my kids from waking in the night.
I also question the usefulness of knowing that last night you slept for 6.3 hours, and the night before 7.1 hours, for example. I go to bed every night hoping for the best. I know I may not fall asleep straight away, and I know I may wake in the night and I accept that. Feeling pressure to have precisely 8 hours sleep at night would probably give me some kind of performance anxiety. That if I don’t fall asleep straight away then that’s my sleep for the night ruined. I have enough things in my life to worry about, without having to worry if I’m getting the optimal amount of sleep.
I am also uneasy with the idea of commoditising something so basic as sleep, and distrustful of companies who try to break sleep down into something technical, to be monitored, rather than an innate biological function that we either do or don’t do depending on our predisposition to insomnia.
I am not immune to consumerism, but I am trying to be. Questioning items like this is a good way to avoid falling into the marketers hands. Also this article from Damien Hirst is pretty good if you are into the idea of reading rants about consumerism. Although don’t click if you’re sensitive to bad language because there is a lot of the ‘c’ word in there. A lot of it. If my grandmother was still alive I would not be sending this article to her, let’s put it that way, even though she’d probably enjoy it.
If I’ve completely missed the point about sleep trackers then do let me know – clearly I am no expert on sleep trackers. Perhaps you have one and genuinely find it useful. I’d love to know!