Putting my Sleep Apps to Bed
Apple Watch sleep tracking apps have proven to be very popular and the lack of an official app by Apple has allowed third-party developers to take full advantage and fill that gap in the market. I am sure these developers get anxious before every WWDC, expecting that their apps will finally be 'Sherlocked’ as Apple announces: ‘Now you can track your sleeping habits with Apple Watch!’
But they can once again breathe a sigh of relief as WWDC19 has come and gone with no such announcement from Apple.
For me, this raises a question: Why is Apple so reticent to release an official sleep tracking app?
Perhaps a recent article in The Guardian might offer some clue.
The article throws some doubt as to the actual usefulness of sleep trackers. It explains how they actually offer very little data apart from how much your body moved while you were dreaming. This data is postulated to have hardly any significant usefulness outside of curiosity, and may actually lead to some users feeling increased anxiety leading to degraded sleeping patterns.
Sleep disorder specialist and consultant Dr. Guy Leschziner told The Guardian “We’ve seen a lot of people who have developed significant insomnia as a result of either sleep trackers or reading certain things about how devastating sleep deprivation is for you.”
“If you wake up every day and feel refreshed, are awake throughout the day and are ready to sleep at the same time every night then you’re probably getting enough sleep for you, and you don’t need an app to tell you that.”
I have been using various sleep trackers for the past few years, ever since the updates to the Apple Watch battery allowed for longer periods between charges. I know what my sleep schedule should be as I have to rise for work each weekday at 4:45am. If I am to achieve the often cited 8 hours of sleep this would mean I should be counting sheep by 8:45pm. Unfortunately I very rarely stick to this and as a result it takes me a good while each morning to wake to meet the new day and then, just to pour salt on the wound, I am then lectured by my Watch app about how poor my ‘Sleep Credit’ is. Tell me something I don't know!
I've become very irritated by this constant daily nagging, and so I thought I would try deleting all of my various sleep tracking apps and instead of wearing the Watch all through the night I’d simply place it on the charger as I slipped away into peace.
I decided to log a daily diary.
First Night - Saturday
This might not be a fair test (as I have no reason to rise early during the weekends) but I hope it will act as a kind of baseline to calculate how much sleep my body requires with no alarms going off to rudely awaken me.
After some drinking and a rather loud party next door I drifted off around 1 am Sunday with my Watch nestled snuggly on its charging stand. I woke at 9am feeling a little groggy but generally refreshed. It was nice that there was no app judging how I had slept; no anxiety about whether or not I had reached a suitable REM state; just simple blissful ignorance.
Second Night - Sunday
Drifted off around 10pm to be woken by my alarm at 4:45am. Feeling a little groggy but no more than usual for a rain-sodden working Monday morning. Again, no nagging screen letting me know if I had a bad night or not. No anxiety.
Third Night - Monday
Asleep by 11pm awake at 4:30am. Burning the wick at both ends on a school night is not recommended but although I know deep down I didn’t get as much sleep as I needed. No nagging record to bother me.
Fourth Night - Tuesday
Drifted off around 10pm until Alexa woke me at 4:45am. As the week goes on I am getting more sleep, but waking can still be hard when it looks miserable outside my window. I reflect that, once again, I would have failed any strict sleep tracking goals and would certainly have woken to a judgemental screen highlighting my failure. But now I just hit the shower ready for another working day without worrying about something that I can’t control.
Although this test might not rival strict clinical trials I can testify that I have certainly felt less anxiety regarding my sleeping levels. No longer waking and being presented with nagging screens of how little REM or deep sleep I achieved throughout the night has certainly made me less worried about my sleep patterns.
Most of us lead hectic lives and would probably benefit from more sleep than we allow ourselves. However, maybe the constant nagging from our disapproving smart watches about how much we moved in the night isn’t the best way to improve things. Perhaps we should be guided more by the natural requirements from our own individual bodies instead. Could this be the reason that Apple doesn't offer a built-in sleep-tracking app?
The fact is that I have felt better since removing my Apple Watch each night and having one less thing to be concerned about. As a result, I shall certainly be leaving my Watch on its little power stand from now on, so that we can both get a good nights recharge ready for the new day.