Sleep Trackers and Their Accuracy

Ever wonder if the device you wear is accurately tracking your sleep, or just how well it compares to other brands? The truth is, there’s always a better way to track sleep than the wrist bands available on the market. That doesn’t mean they aren’t at least semi-successful, however.

An undergraduate researcher at Brown University, Jina Yoon, tackled this question with some research of her own. Rather than looking at the 500 or so options available on the market today, Yoon instead studied 10 of the “most popular sleep trackers” (Yoon).

The first step to seeing how effectively a band is monitoring sleep is to look first at the stages of sleep. There are five phases, however, it was clear from the start of the study that the simple devices were unable to track all five phases of a sleep cycle. “Detecting REM sleep with a worn device or app is virtually impossible without polysomnography, a test that records your brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, as well as eye and leg movements during the study. It requires the placement of electrodes on your head and is usually performed in a clinic for one night” (Yoon).

The results from Yoon’s study revealed that the Fitbit Alta had the most accurate results, but she suggests taking several other factors into consideration before buying. While she had a ‘winner’ device, Yoon also stated that, “In the end, we found that most devices were similar to each other if they were based on the same type of sensor (accelerometer vs. noise) and the device type (phone vs. wristband vs. other)” (Yoon). From there she went on to say that sleep is really best tracked through polysomnography.

In the end, it’s not worth losing any sleep over because while your sleep tracker may not be the best, it’s still doing a fair job.

Sweet dreams!


Yoon, Jina. “Comparing 10 Sleep Trackers (2017): How well do they track your sleep? A 9-day minute-by-minute comparison.” 2017, http://sleep.cs.brown.edu/comparison/. Accessed 23 January 2018.

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