Is your smart watch as good as a home sleep test?
Smart watches have grown in popularity in recent years, largely thanks to their ability to track health, including sleep. smart watches, such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit, use a combination of movement and heart rate data to estimate the user's different sleep phases (7*). Some advanced models are even capable of tracking snoring and sleep apnea, a condition characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep (29*) (30*). Many people use them to measure Back2Sleep's effectiveness against snoring or sleep apnea.
However, despite their popularity, studies indicate that smart watches may have limitations in terms of accuracy. Compared to polysomnography tests - used by experts to diagnose sleep disorders - smart watches are accurate only 78% of the time when identifying sleep in relation to the previous day. This accuracy drops to around 38% when estimating how long it took participants to fall asleep (15*).
Home sleep tests
In comparison, home sleep tests use a variety of sensors to measure oxygen saturation, heart rate, airflow, as well as chest, abdominal and postural movements during sleep. These tests are almost as accurate as laboratory sleep tests in detecting sleep apnea, especially if patients have no other significant medical problems (23*).
Comparison between smart watches and home sleep tests
While smart watches offer the advantage of convenience, their ability to accurately track different sleep phases and detect sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may be limited. For example, smart watches tend to underestimate the amount of deep sleep obtained by users by up to 46 minutes (16*).
In addition, smart watches have difficulty differentiating sleep from wakefulness in people suffering from insomnia, as these people tend to remain very still in bed when trying to fall asleep (16*). When it comes to monitoring sleep apnea and snoring, these devices cannot yet offer monitoring as accurate as a polysomnography test, as they do not incorporate polysomnography measurements (31*).
The difference between a connected watch and a home sleep test
According to current research, the answer is nuanced. While smart watches can provide a general overview of your sleep and are a convenient option for daily monitoring, they cannot replace the accuracy and reliability of a home sleep test, particularly for diagnosing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
What's more, it's important to note that the data provided by these smart watches can have an impact on your emotional state and concentration levels during the day, even if the readings are accurate. One study showed that participants who were informed that they had slept poorly showed lower mood, difficulties with daytime thought processes and increased sleepiness (17*).
In conclusion, while smart watches can be a useful tool for basic sleep monitoring and preliminary detection of sleep problems, they are no substitute for more accurate diagnostic methods such as home sleep tests. If you suspect you're suffering from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
Sources used to write this article :
- Fitbit.com : [Suivi du sommeil étayé par des études](https://www.fitbit.com/global/fr/technology/sleep)(7*).
- Theconversation.com : [How accurate are sleep tracking devices?](https://theconversation.com/how-accurate-are-sleep-tracking-devices-144339)(15*) (16*) (17*).
- Ma-clinique.fr : [Apnée du sommeil : diagnostic et traitement](https://www.ma-clinique.fr/apnee-du-sommeil-diagnostic-traitement/)(23*).
- Health.harvard.edu : [Snore no more? What you need to know about the latest sleep apnea treatments](https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/snore-no-more-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-latest-sleep-apnea-treatments-2021033122206)(29*).
- Sleepassociation.org : [How a Fitbit is Able to Track Your Sleep](https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/how-a-fitbit-is-able-to-track-your-sleep/)(30*).
- Sleep.org : [Sleep Apnea Devices](https://www.sleep.org/sleep-apnea-devices/)(31*).
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