Researchers: Sleep trackers causing people to lose sleep

FOX 32 NEWS - Sleep trackers have become a must wear gadget for many, but new research is revealing a surprising find.

When it comes to your sleep, the enthusiasm for these devices may overshadow what they can actually deliver.

Marisa Choate is an art teacher, so it's not unusual to see a paintbrush in her hands. One other thing you'll always see is her Fitbit attached to her wrist. She admits she's become addicted to her step count and how many hours of sleep she gets every single night.

"I was like oh my goodness I'm only getting 4-6 hours of sleep a night and I could see how badly it was affecting me,” Choate said.

There's no doubt these wearable sleep trackers are growing in popularity, but researchers at Rush University Medical Center are finding that they are actually causing people to lose sleep.

It’s estimated 15 percent of us adults now own these wearable sleep tracking devices, and that's apparently causing some problems.

Sleep specialist's at Rush Univerisity Sleep Lab in Chicago noticed an increase in patients coming in and complaining of sleep disorders. They were all seeking the magical number of 8 hours. Their findings were reported in the journal of clinical sleep medicine.

"Their having anxiety about sleep, they are trying to get more sleep and also they are spending more time in bed trying to sleep and that results in them having more awake time at night and also having their sleep more fragmented."

Kelly Baron and her colleagues coined the term "Orthosomnia." It refers to people who are fixated on getting the right or correct sleep and taking it too far.  They point out sleep trackers can't differentiate between light and deep sleep and may track you as sleeping when you are actually just reading in bed.

The bottom line is that these popular trackers aren't always accurate. The best way to measure sleep is in a sleep lab, which most people don't need.

"We measure sleep by the EEG of brainwaves, so the wrist is not going to pick up some of these little awakenings, so most of the time it's going to overestimate."

So does that mean sleep trackers are bad? Baron says not necessarily. She owns and uses one herself as a gauge for her bedtime routine. It’s what Marisa Choate does too. She’s learned from her sleep tracker to set a regular bedtime routine, so she's better rested in the morning.

"I'm kind of number obsessed and I like to see those numbers add up and it makes me feel good to see oh I hit my goal."

Baron says your best gauge of sleep is how you feel during the day. Most people should get 7 hours and it's normal to have some periods of awakening and restlessness in the night. But if you're taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, feel unrefreshed from  your sleep or are awake for long periods of time during the night, then maybe it's time to seek professional help.

If that isn't you, just relax and don't let your sleep turn you into an Orthosomniac.