A poisoned gift

The excessive use of new technologies is detrimental to our sleep

Ivan Oboleninov

Ivan Oboleninov, Pexels

Axel has been having trouble sleeping for the past five years, after starting a new job that he was very much looking forward to. A promotion that opened up a lot of doors, but closed the doors on a good night’s sleep. His fiancé, who was worried about the state of his health, bought him one of the numerous sleep trackers available on the market for Christmas. Since then, he has been constantly wearing it on his arm but has been unable to fall into Morpheus’ arms. Axel is not the only one, around 10% of the population uses one these tracking devices whereas half of us would consider purchasing one sooner or later. Recently, a new word has sprung up to qualify people who are obsessed with controlling their sleep: orthosomnia (“the right amount of sleep”). The first thing these people do when getting up is to check the night report granted by the app connected to the device. They anticipate that it is going to be a hard day when the summary displays less than 8 hours of sleep. Some of them even check their phone to live track their night’s sleep, every time they wake up. However, two methods are currently scientifically proven and used to track sleeping patterns: actimetry and polysomnography. If actimetry records with precision our movements during the night, only polysomnography can record electric cerebral activity. Actimetry, along with most of the trackers available on the market, is not able in any way to define the different stages of sleep (i.e. light sleep, deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep). Only polysomnography is able to. Several scientific studies have indeed shown that available trackers are incapable of precisely ascertaining the different stages of sleep, as well as waking time throughout the night. What’s more, a lack of transparency in the algorithms makes it difficult to conduct any kind of validation study. So, there is an urgency for Axel and hyper connected people to take back control over their sleep and to leave sleep trackers and all of their data in their right place. If you are using such a device, please share your experience with us by clicking here.

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.


sleep new technologies orthosomnia tracking devices actimetry polysomnography