How (And Why) You Should Track Your Sleep
Have you been falling asleep halfway through your day or hitting the couch as soon as you get home from work? Are you having a hard time staying awake in traffic or losing your motivation for exercise or activities that you once loved? Maybe you can’t quite get that gardening done or you can’t make those much-needed garage repairs? Perhaps you’ve even been checked out by your general practitioner and all the bloodwork came back normal? The only clue you have for your unexplained sleepiness may be your spouse who insists you snore too much during the night or jerk awake from a deep sleep. Could your sleep hold the answer to your daytime drowsiness? Thankfully, you live in the 21st century and there’s a ton of research and a whole lot of products available that can help you track your sleep.
What’s really going on while you sleep?
During your nighttime routine, your brain is very active. Sleep isn’t just a dormant process like everyone thought hundreds of years ago. Your brain is actually busy sending out tons of information as you pass in and out of REM and NREM sleep, also known as light sleep and deep sleep stages.  While you’re going through these four sleep cycles, your brain is busy processing information from the day, rebuilding tissue that was damaged, replenishing your energy stores and reproducing tons of new cells. Without sleep, you wouldn’t have enough energy to accomplish these very important daily goals. Getting quality sleep can provide a ton of benefits for your physical and mental health too. A proper amount of sleep has been known to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s. Sleep also helps fight off depression and anxiety and can be a big mood booster. So, if you’re not completing your sleep cycle each night, it can lead to a ton of sleep issues. The crazy thing is you might not even know you’re experiencing it. Sleep Apnea, for example, can be one reason you are waking at night and it can be enough to do serious damage to your sleep cycle but not wake you fully enough to realize it’s happening. 
What can you do about your sleep disturbances?
It can be scary not to know what’s going on in your sleep and in your body. You might even drive yourself crazy thinking about all the what-ifs of your nighttime world. This sleep anxiety can make you watch the clock and take even longer for you to fall asleep. Luckily, there are systems in place to help you track your sleep. This means you can find out what your body and mind are actually doing while you snooze. Sleep tracking lets you understand your natural sleep processes and what may be causing you to be so sleepy the next day. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, you can visit a sleep specialist who will likely take into account your health history and your family history, as well as, conduct sleep studies that help find out what’s going on in your sleep. But tracking your sleep isn’t just for those who think they have a disorder, with many new techniques on the market, anyone that’s curious about their sleep life can study their nighttime patterns to learn how to get the best sleep possible.
How does sleep tracking work?
Some devices that can measure brain activity are headgear that detect brain waves or wired electrode systems that attach to your chest and measure your heart rate and breathing or provide a sleep image of your body. There are even beds that can read your sleep data. Many are available to buy and use at home to self-monitor your sleep. Some you wear on your wrists or attach to your body. Others you download as an app on your phone and use them to record sleep data while you snooze. Though extremely cool, some reviews are mixed about how much data these devices can actually give you.
What’s the best tracker available today?
Our suggestion for the best sleep tracker available is the S+ by ResMed. S+ is the world’s first non-contact sleep system that helps you analyze and improve your sleep from the very first night. Using advanced bio-motion technology, S+ monitors the four stages of sleep by measuring your breathing and physical movements, while also recording the light, noise, and temperature conditions in your room.
It easily syncs with your smartphone through an app that offers features to help you sleep more easily. Upon waking, S+ analyzes your sleep results against averages for your age and gender, and then provides a daily SleepScore and tailored feedback and suggestions on how to improve your sleep.
The S+ technology’s ability to accurately measure sleep patterns has been published in 10 scientific papers and has been tested and proven against expert manually scored patient sleep data gathered in several accredited sleep laboratories. 4 out of 5 of the worst sleepers improved their sleep in just one week after using S+.
This technology is a welcomed addition to the sleep world. Scientists are still learning so much about your sleep and how to best help you get enough Zzzzs. By tracking your day to day patterns of when you fall asleep and when you wake up, you can gain a real understanding of how your biological clock is running and if you need to reset it or not. By taking the time to investigate your sleep world, you’re already moving in the right direction. Before you know it, you’ll be fixing that garage, planting your garden and taking a stroll around the neighborhood before noon. Tracking your sleep is a great idea for anyone to do but especially if you’re suffering from anything that you think might be causing you to have a sleep deficit.
What if I need a diagnosis for a possible Sleep Disorder?
Accurate Sleep Trackers like the S+ will be able to tell you how you have been sleeping, but they do not diagnose sleep disorders. If you suspect you may be suffering from a sleep disorder you should always consult your Doctor.
If you’ve decided to see a sleep doctor for a more serious sleep issue, you’ll most likely be asked to begin keeping a sleep journal so that you can get the basic idea of when you wake up and when you go to sleep and on what nights you have a problem sleeping. These journals will also take into account your food and exercise regimens as well. Once this is assessed, your doctor may start a sleep study on you to monitor your sleep.
In a sleep center or hospital, you’ll be introduced to the laboratory polysomnogram (PSG), a diagnosis tool that has long been used in sleep studies. It can be used to diagnose major sleep disorders such sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and sleepwalking. The PSG records your brain waves, eye and body movements, breathing, heart rate and oxygen level and many other signals to understand your sleep.