How To Track Your Sleep Using Fitbit (And Other Wearables!)

sleep tracking

Sleep is necessary for us to be healthy. When we are asleep, the brain processes the information accumulated throughout the day and forms new connections. As for the rest of the body, it relaxes and uses the hours in which we lie down to rejuvenate. In truth, sleep is beneficial for both mental and physical health, that is why sometimes it may help for you to do some sleep tracking. This will stop you from guessing how long you slept and help you actually meet your goals.

In modern society, the lack of sleep has become a common occurrence. We often sacrifice sleep either for personal or professional reasons, without being aware of the fact that sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and depression.

Keeping track of our sleep, in terms of quality and quantity, can be helpful in identifying whether we suffer from sleep deprivation or not. Fitbit, a popular activity tracker, can be used to detect sleep and obtain information on how well we are actually doing in this area. Below we will discuss how Fitbit works, and how CareClinic helps import your sleep data and discover correlations between your overall health and sleep.

Sleep statistics demonstrate that sleep deprivation is a real issue

According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 and 70 million adults in the United States suffer from a sleep disorder. From this number, 48% have reported snoring and an additional 37.9% complained of falling asleep during the day. Drowsy driving is reported as a common cause of auto-related injuries.

Insomnia is considered to be one of the most often encountered sleep disorders, affecting about 30% of the adult population (chronic insomnia cases account for 10%). Obstructive sleep apnea is connected to insomnia, affecting 25 million adults in America. Obesity can affect the overall quality of sleep, leading to sleep deprivation (R).

How does Fitbit track sleep?

Fitbit is a wrist-based device that can be used to measure the number of hours one sleeps, both in the day and night. How does Fitbit work? In order for your sleep-related information to be recorded, all you have to do is wear the device on your hand. Upon resting – with your body not changing your position – the Fitbit device will record that you are sleeping.

Keep in mind that there are Fitbit devices that come with heart rate tracking. These are more complex and, thus, they are able to record the different sleep stages you might go throughout the night. The rest of the devices will record the time you have spent sleeping, as well as the one in which you were awake or in a restless state (going from a still state to a moving one, such as frequently turning over in bed – indicative of poor sleep quality).

If you are moving a lot while sleeping, this is indicative for the device that you are not getting adequate rest. For this reason, if you were to analyze the sleep graphs and charts, you will see that it will rather show you were awake and not in deep sleep. This is important, as it can help you identify potential factors that can cause restlessness during sleep (background noise, excess humidity, etc.). (R)

Sleep data gathered in the Fitbit app

The Fitbit sleep monitor will gather information about your sleeping patterns, which you can always review in the app. You can see not only patterns but how much time you have actually spent in each sleep stage. This device gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “track my sleep”, as you can certainly notice for yourself.

The sleep history can be reviewed on a weekly basis, offering a clear picture of how well you are sleeping. You can rely on this calendar tracker to understand your sleep quality and frequency, making the necessary adjustments to wake up well-rested and rejuvenated.

A careful calculation of the time you were asleep

How do sleep trackers work, and particularly, how do they calculate the time we were asleep? Well, when it comes to the Fitbit device(s), the whole calculation process is quite simple. The device tracks an entire day and, in order to show you for how long you have slept, it will subtract the time you spent awake or in a restless state.

For example, let’s say it shows that you have slept for seven hours. However, it will also reveal that you have woken up several times in that night, tracking the small amounts of awake time (perhaps five minutes each, three times per night). This will mean that you would have actually slept for six hours and forty-five minutes.

Sleep is automatically detected by Fitbit

How does sleep monitoring watch detect deep sleep? Well, the Fitbit device, as it is simply worn on the wrist, it will automatically detect sleep. You just have to wear it in bed and it will identify each sleep phase, in accordance with your movements.

If you were still for approximately one hour, the device automatically considers that you have fallen asleep. Depending on each Fitbit, it might also track movements that are suggestive of sleep, such as turning on the other side. In the morning, when you will resume normal activities, it will track the awake state.

It is possible that sleep is recorded by the Fitbit device, even when this is not actually happening. This is valid for the cases in which you lie down without falling asleep but you are not moving, making the device think that you are sleeping. In this situation, you can go to the history and delete the recording in question.

Use Fitbit to set sleep goals and improve your sleep schedule

You can trust apps such as the one that comes with Fitbit to set sleep goals and improve your sleep schedule. The app is available on both iOS and Android, and it can make a genuine difference whereas sleep hygiene is concerned. Thanks to modern technology, you can now set and follow a regular sleep schedule, so that you feel better overall.

In establishing a sleep goal, such as sleeping for at least 7-8 hours every night, you have to take into account that the time spent awake in bed does not count. Work toward your sleep goal by making a few careful changes, such as opening the windows to let fresh air in before going to sleep, avoiding bright screens or the intake of caffeine-based beverages.

Sleep insights for Fitbit users

You might not know this but the Fitbit device does more than track your sleep. It actually offers personalized insights, which are recommendations on how to improve your sleep hygiene (and, in turn, your general health). Upon logging your sleep on a regular basis, you will receive even more of such insights.

For instance, the application might advise you that, upon waking up at the same time every day, you will improve your circadian rhythm. Based on these recommendations, you can make changes to your sleep schedule and notice the difference. Keep in mind that you can turn off these sleep insights, in case you are not interested.

Using Fitbit to go to bed at the right time

Most people go to bed late at night, after watching television or checking out social media on their smartphones. Others cannot fall asleep, as they have the habit of eating late or drinking caffeine-based beverages. All of these habits can affect general health, increasing the risk of chronic disorders.

Fitbit can be used, aside from sleep tracking, to set up a reminder for going to bed at an appropriate hour. Thanks to this reminder, you will finally be able to maintain a sleep schedule that is consistent and no longer feel tired throughout the day.

In accordance to the said bedtime reminder, you will be sent a notification on your smartphone. Depending on the model, it is possible to receive the reminder on the actual device as well. Also, in accordance with your daily schedule (work, school, other activities, etc.), you can add different reminders for each of the weekdays/weekend.

Does Fitbit log daytime sleep?

Yes, the device can log daytime sleep as well, as long as it follows the same characteristics – it lasts for approximately an hour, with no movement being detected. Just like the sleep logs recorded throughout the night, you can find the information on naps in sleep history (automatic detection of sleep).

With certain devices, you might have to stop logging nighttime sleep, in order for naps to be recorded. Regarding the sleep history, this can be edited as you might wish. If the device has recorded sleep inaccurately, you can always delete the logs in question.

Are there different types of logging?

The answer is yes. Depending on your personal preferences and needs, the Fitbit device can log either in a normal or sensitive mode. The first will offer basic information on sleep patterns, detecting movements in an automatic manner (significant ones, such as turning over in bed).

The sensitive logging is more advanced, recording even the slightest movement, as well as the time you have spent awake or the restless state of sleep. This is recommended for those who are worried about their sleep quality; it can be used to identify movement throughout the night and, thus, explain why one wakes up tired despite having logged all those hours of sleep.

Note: Fitbit devices might have different logging settings available.

Why should you consider tracking your sleep?

We are all busy and we often end up sacrificing sleep, whether to work on an urgent project, take care of our sick kids or just to watch another episode of our favorite series. But, no matter if we like it or not, we all should pay more attention to our sleep hygiene.

A sleep tracking device, such as Fitbit, as well as the numerous applications available for such purposes, can draw awareness to our sleep habits. It can help us identify sleep patterns and see how many hours we actually sleep each night (as well as daytime naps).

Sleep tracking might also help identify potential factors causing sleep deprivation. Upon noticing these factors – such as watching TV before going to bed – you will feel more motivated to make a change and improve your sleep quality. As you will sleep better, you will also become more productive throughout the day (R).

CareClinic, a health app that can be used to track sleep as well

CareClinic is a simple health app which can be used to keep track of your sleep patterns, among other things (symptom tracking, health journal, personalized care team). In developing this application, the team of specialists has relied on data from the Apple Health Kit, which receives Fitbit data; in turn, this is synced with the CareClinic health app.

Alexandra V.

Alexandra V. holds a degree in Physiotherapy from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Carol Davila. She holds an additional degree in Journalism and writes in English and German. She is passionate about preventative health care and an undergrad in Medicine.
Alexandra V.