Fitness trackers are incredibly popular gadgets these days, with endorsements from fitness celebrities and even reality shows using them as centerpieces. Fitbit is one of the most highly regarded brands on the market, and its trackers do a truly useful service. You can draw upon data gathered by a Fitbit device to gauge your health and well-being, as well as monitor your sleep.
Essential reading: Choosing the right Fitbit tracker
On that topic, people usually wonder… how exactly does a gadget on my wrist keep track of sleep? How accurate is this information?
If you’ve been looking for an answer to these and other questions, we are here to help. Read on to learn everything you need to know on how Fitbit tracks your sleep, and how to ensure you get the most accurate readings.
Understanding how Fitbit tracks your sleep
All in all, the company now offers ten different devices. Depending on your model, sleep tracking will differ; some models track sleep cycles automatically while others require additional user input.
Manual sleep tracking (One, Zip)
If you own a Fitbit One, then your device uses manual sleep tracking. Once you are in bed and ready to go to asleep, press and hold the tracker’s button for several seconds. You will see a stopwatch begin to count, and the other tracker icons will blink, indicating that you are in sleep mode. When you wake up, hold the button down for several seconds to stop the sleep recording. Your tracker’s icons will stop blinking, indicating that you’ve exited sleep mode.
A FitBit Zip doesn’t track sleep metrics. This means that you need to manually enter this information if you want it to show in your timeline. This is done by manually typing the information on time spent in bed through the official website.
Automatic sleep tracking (Alta, Blaze, Charge series, Flex series, Surge)
Those using the models listed above will be happy to know that sleep tracking is automatic. This means you don’t have to fiddle with statistics nor worry about launching sleep mode when you go to bed, although you can still do so if you suspect the automatic readings aren’t precise. Using manual mode provides you with one additional stat (time to fall asleep), but otherwise manual and automatic sleep results are the same.
By default, the device itself will automatically determine when you lie down based on the decreased rate of motion from the accelerometer. For models with a built-in heart rate sensor, the tracker will factor in your heart rate data to automatically determine when you’ve fallen asleep.
When your Fitbit syncs in the morning you’ll see last night’s sleep stats on your dashboard.
The limitations of sleep tracking
Even though Fitbit is a brilliant gadget and really useful as a health monitor, it does have certain limitations. For example, it won’t automatically keep track of naps shorter than one hour, since that’s the default resting period that will activate the automated readings. If you’re adept of short naps, you will have to remember to activate sleep mode manually whenever you lie down.
Furthermore, the device has no way to detect your actual sleep cycles such as REM or light sleep. If that is your main concern, you may want to consider a more advanced sleep monitor.
Which means you will get info on how long you slept, how many times you woke up and the number of times you were restless. Your Fitbit tracker’s settings can record your sleep in either “sensitive” mode for detailed sleep reporting or “normal” mode. The sensitive setting will cause your tracker to record nearly all movements as time spent restless or awake. The normal setting counts significant movements as being awake (such as rolling over), and is appropriate for most users..
Some models also feature a silent alarm function which does a fairly good job of waking you up by vibrating at a set time. Having said that, if you are a heavy sleeper, its probably not a good idea just to rely on the vibrating alarm.
Essential reading: Ten gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring
Fitbit has recently introduced a few interesting features: personalized sleep goals based on your sleep data to achieve your optimal amount of sleep each night; customized bedtime and wakeup targets to establish sleep consistency; reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress.
This means, now you can set a sleep schedule in the Fitbit app to help you meet your sleep goal and maintain a more consistent pattern of sleep. The new features are compatible with all Fitbit devices that track sleep. More info on sleep schedules and goals can be found here.
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