Why using a sleep tracker can worsen insomnia

As digital technology and, specifically, medical wearables continue to advance, it is easier than ever to track practically every piece of health-related data, from step count to heart rate to sleep quality — but, especially in the case of the latter, that is not always the best idea.

In a report from The New York Times this week, Seema Khosla, MD, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep and chairwoman of the technology committee of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, said that while sleep-tracking technology can provide valuable insights, it can also cause users to obsess over the data and develop anxiety about their "imperfect" sleep patterns, resulting in even worse insomnia.

Before going all-in on a tracking device, then, Dr. Khosla suggested making simple changes, such as sticking to a regular schedule and avoiding screens before bedtime. "People will shell out 200 bucks for some sleep device, but we're not willing to just shut off our phones and go to bed," she said.

Additionally, Roy Raymann, PhD, vice president of sleep science and scientific affairs at SleepScore Labs, the maker of a sleep-tracking app and device, advised users to remember that the devices themselves do not actually improve sleep, but simply provide data. He compared these tools to a bathroom scale: "If you stand on it every day, it will not make you lose weight."

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