Google Nest Hub, Apple Watch and the Pros and Cons of Sleep Tracking

I’ve been sleeping with my gadgets—five of them.

These sensors on my nightstand, under my mattress and on my wrists automatically capture all sorts of information overnight. I’m swimming in a sea of data—time in bed, time asleep, time it took to fall asleep, number of disturbances, percentage in light and deep sleep, snoring instances, average heart rate, average breaths a minute. The goal of all this: fix my groggy mornings.

The pandemic has left me feeling perpetually in sleep debt and, apparently, I’m not alone. Can any of these smart bracelets, watches, pads or bedside smart displays help me wake up feeling more rested and refreshed?

Sleep tracking has long been offered on wearable devices such as Fitbit but, recently, more gadget makers are entering the bedroom. Last September, the Apple Watch got a sleep-tracking app with WatchOS 7. Google’s recently announced next-generation Nest Hub, which starts shipping Tuesday, has a radar sensor designed to measure nighttime movements and even breathing patterns.

The trackers are drawing attention to an often overlooked, yet vital aspect of our health, which sleep experts told me is a good thing. But the doctors and psychiatrists I spoke to also cast doubt on the devices’ ability to capture certain data, such as sleep stages, accurately, and said people can become easily overwhelmed by the data deluge—leading to more sleep-blocking stress.

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