I Tracked My Sleep for 30 Nights…At What Cost Though?

I Tracked My Sleep for 30 Nights…At What Cost Though?
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

I tracked my sleep using my Apple Watch SE for 30 consecutive days. The results surprised me.

Being a tech aficionado, I always try to maximize the use of every gadget that I own. The Apple Watch is no different.

One of the most marketed uses of smartwatches is their sleep-tracking features. From Garmin to Pixel Watch to Fitbit, this principle holds. The Apple Watch is no different.

Especially with Apple’s watchOS 9, sleep tracking was brought to the front and center by Apple.

I finally gave in to the hype and tried it out for myself for 30 days. Just to remind you, folks, I did track my sleep intermittently before, but never with such consistency before.

I will walk you through my experience of sleep tracking, talk through some pros and cons, and finally tell you if this is something I am carrying forward in my life.

Health Apps to Supplement The Watch

When I decided to start this experiment, the plan was to fully immerse myself in the experience. So, I used all the fancy apps out there to get as much sleep data as possible.

The apps that I found consistently good are:

  • Apple Health
  • Athlytic
  • Pillow

Some of these are free, while others are paid.

Sleep data is sensitive, so I would recommend using an app that you trust.

Photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash

Charging Paranoia

Throughout the day, my most used device is my Apple Watch.

From listening to music to getting directions to setting timers to answering calls to checking up on calendar events and other productivity stuff — my Apple Watch does more for me than any other device, including my iPhone.

That means, I need my watch to be at 100% every morning.

What’s the problem, you ask?

If I am tracking my sleep overnight, I either need to charge my watch before going to sleep or early in the morning before I head out for the gym. It’s hella inconvenient.

Countless times I forgot to charge it at those two times and had to resort to charging midday or leaving the house without my watch.

I had to be very strategic about charging time which adds a lot of friction and resulted in me using my phone more than I would like to.

Overhyped Smart Alarm

Some people on Reddit and YouTube swear by “smart alarm” on smartwatches.

“Smart alarm” can sense the beginning and end of your sleep cycle and then gently wake you up through some rhythmic taps on your wrist. The idea is that, instead of being jolted from your sleep in the middle of deep sleep, you gradually wake up when your body is primed to.

It never worked for me.

I found the taps annoying and extremely easy to snooze.

If anything, my physical alarm clock forces me to get up from bed, resulting in me starting my day whether I want to or not.

I tried many different Apple Watch apps, but I didn’t see any value.

False Sense of Sleep Quality

Apps like Athlytic and Pillow can measure your body vitals during sleep, and then present you with a “sleep score”.

“Sleep Score” is essentially a number between 1 and 10 that tells you about the quality of your sleep. The higher the number, the better you slept.

Being a data-driven person and a technology geek, I was fascinated by this.

In reality, though, it didn’t work for me.

The score is unreliable. Let’s say I start the day by looking at my watch, and I see that my sleep score was below average (maybe 5?). Just by looking at that, my mood changes and I tackle the day with a negative, tired attitude.

On the flip side, of course, a high number can make me feel motivated.

However, given the inconsistency, it didn’t make sense to let one number dictate my attitude for the day.

Instead, listening to my body every morning has served me better.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Always Connected

I turn off all my Apple Watch notifications.

I literally have no apps on the Watch that can distract me.

When I am sleeping, I have my Sleep Focus activated on the phone, which means literally nothing can distract me.

Yet, there’s something about having a screen on my wrist when I am sleeping that makes me feel connected to the internet.

Especially since I started keeping my phone and iPad out of my bedroom, keeping the watch with me felt a little hypocritical for someone who preaches a “no technology” nighttime routine.

Dealing with Symptoms

Why do I want to track my sleep?

To optimize and better understand if I am sleeping well or not.

However, I realized that more than data, what helps me have a good night’s sleep is a healthy lifestyle.

On days when I wake up early, work out in the morning, have a productive day, socialize with friends or family, and most importantly, go to bed at a set time, I end up sleeping very well.

If I am not sleeping well, it’s one of the things above that have changed.

It’s better to address those changes, rather than try to overcomplicate things.

Interesting Data… But At What Cost?

Technology has come incredibly far.

It’s crazy how much data you can collect about your body vitals through a tiny piece of aluminum on your wrist.

Outside sleep data, the Apple Watch can get more accurate information about your Resting Heart Rate (RHR), Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and many such metrics.

Throughout the day there are many confounding variables that make data collection noisy. During the night, the data is much cleaner, so overall your health metrics are more accurate if you keep your watch on during the night.

However, at what cost?

Given the downsides I explained above, personally, for me, it doesn’t make sense to wear the watch overnight. The tradeoffs are stacked against interesting data for me.

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

The Future

The 30-day experiment was fun and insightful.

However, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits of sleep tracking for me.

I won’t be using my Apple Watch to track my sleep regularly moving forward. Maybe, occasionally I might do it, for the sake of running experiments. It would only be to that extent.

If you track your sleep, I would love to know about your experience. Please respond below with your experience, suggestions, and/or concerns.

I hope you found this a valuable read and have some takeaways that you can go ahead and implement in your wonderful lives.

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