The average person is not getting the recommended 7 hours of sleep according to latest Fitbit research.
The San Francisco outfit has recently upgraded the sleep tracking capability of its Alta HR, Charge 2 and Blaze fitness trackers. For the first time on a Fitbit device, you get info on how much Light, Deep and REM sleep you are getting each night. The values are calculated by combining accelerometer data, heart rate variability (the time between beats), and Fitbit’s proprietary algorithms. The app also delivers insights and recommendations to help you get more shut-eye.
Essential reading: Fitbit’s new sleep stages explained
It seems that the trackers keep tabs on your sleep to a reasonable degree of accuracy. A new report, commissioned by Fitbit but scored independently by polysomnography technicians, found that when it comes to sleep stages, Fitbit data was not all too different from results you would get tracking sleep in a laboratory. The findings were presented at the SLEEP 2017 conference of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine earlier this month.
“The ability to easily track your sleep not only helps individuals better understand their own sleep, it also unlocks significant potential for us to better understand population health and gain new insights into the mysteries of sleep and its connection to a variety of health conditions,” says Conor Heneghan, Ph.D., lead sleep research scientist at Fitbit.
Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. But it seems that most of us are not getting enough. The National Sleep Foundation recomments that adults over 18 years old get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. As you get older, this falls slightly. For those over 65 years old, the recommended amount is between 7 and 8 hours.
Fitbit anonymized statistics show that the average Fitbit user gets 7 hours and 33 minutes of bed time, but only 6 hours and 38 minutes of actual sleep. This is just shy of the recommended 7+ hours. The 55 minute gap between bed time and sleep is fairly normal and is the time you spend restless or awake. Its worth noting, the data may be slightly incomplete as Fitbit devices do not log naps shorter than one hour. If you’re adept of short naps, you need to activate sleep mode manually whenever you lie down, but we suspect most people do not go to the trouble of doing this.
Statistics show that around 21% of sleep time is spent in the REM stage, 52% in Light sleep and the remainder in Deep sleep. Each of the three stages is important but for a different reason. Light sleep is key for memory, learning and letting your body recover from the day. REM or Rapid Eye Movement promotes a healthy immune system and muscle growth – this is when most dreaming occurs. Finally, Deep sleep is important when it comes to mental recovery and memory formation.
It seems that women are slightly better than men when it comes to looking after their health. Fitbit data shows that they slept some 24 minutes more than men, giving their bodies a bit more time to recover. The split between sleep stages is fairly consistent, but age does play a role when it comes to the quality of sleep. Men get a slightly higher percentage of Deep sleep than women until the age 55, after which women take the lead.
Essential reading: Choosing the right Fitbit tracker
Unsurprisingly, General Z (age 13-22) goes to sleep the latest but they long most hours of rest typically waking up after 8am. Millennials (age 23-40) and Generation X (age 41-51) got to bed earlier, but we suspect work commitments prompt them to wake up before their 7+ hour quota is filled. As you get older, the amount of sleep needed decreases, and statistics confirm this. Fitbit Baby Boomers slept the least, averaging 6 hours and 33 minutes per night.
REM and Light sleep stay pretty stable throughout a person’s lifetime but Deep sleep takes a dive, declining from 17% to only 12% for those over 70. This may also be due to medical issues.
“People naturally get [sleep] less as they get older, and there’s not really much you can do about it,” says Fitbit Advisory Panel sleep expert Michael Grandner, MD.
“Anything that interferes with sleep like pain, illness, and medical problems, can keep your body out of Deep sleep artificially.”
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