What Does Your Fitbit or Smartwatch Tell You About Your Sleep Patterns?

Wearers of Fitbits and smartwatches love the feature they offer of receiving data in real time. From this data, someone can know their heart rate, steps logged in a day and time in fat burning mode. They can also analyze sleep.

The sleep pattern information gives the wearer understanding into how much sleep they got in hours and minutes, how many times they woke in the night, and how much light, deep and REM sleep was logged. But, smartwatches are still behind in offering data on the quality sleep someone receives each night.

Sleep medicine doctors are skeptical of the new wearable devices and hope for more research on the topic and improved technology. Steward Health Care neurologist and sleep medicine specialist Robert Conroy, MD, answers questions about sleep, quality of sleep and wearables.

  1. How do you feel about wearables like Fitbit that analyze sleep?
    Wearables such as Fitbit haven’t been scientifically studied versus the gold standard, a polysomnogram, or sleep study, in an accredited sleep lab.  There have been only two studies of consumer-level devices, and they don’t correlate well with stages of sleep, amount of wakefulness and the time it takes one to get to sleep. They do help the wearer compare one night to the other and do give some information about total sleep, but not really quality.
  2. Do you find the data accurate at pinpointing sleep and possible problems?
    The data can tell one about sleep times and number of times they got out of bed, which is like a good sleep log.
  3. What can we learn from our wearable and sleep?
    Wearables can tell us about the amount of sleep and how long one is in bed, etc. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven hours of sleep for adults, although it is very individualized and has a genetic component. There are chromosome tests for short- and long-sleeping families. One usually needs enough sleep to be awake and alert the next day.
  4. What are the tips for getting a good night’s sleep? How much is enough for most of us?
    It’s recommended that people have a routine before sleep to help them relax. Listening to music, light reading, and taking a warm bath are relaxation techniques people can use to wind down to fall asleep.
  5. Do you ever use information from a person’s wearable to learn about their sleep behavior before further testing?
    Doctors can get some information from the current wearables that tell one about total sleep time and movement. Sleep researchers have been using devices that measure activity and rest for years. Wearables are a weaker form of this technology that measure movement and are much cheaper. Sleep medicine is very technology-driven, and as the technology improves, there will be multiple new ways for patients to monitor and improve their sleep.

Have a sleep problem? Ask your primary care physician if a sleep study to diagnose your sleep problems is right for you.


To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.

This website stores data such as cookies to enable essential site functionality, as well as personalization and analytics. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies. For more information about these cookies and the data collected, please refer to our policy.

View Policy