Exploring Sleep Monitoring Devices

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 11, 2020

If you have narcolepsy, some studies suggest that tracking your sleep may be helpful for you and your doctor. Wearable devices or apps may give you an accurate picture of your sleep patterns, record your movements, and measure your total rest and disturbances.

Some apps may also help. But the FDA has not yet approved any over-the-counter sleep-monitoring device or app for the management or treatment of narcolepsy.

Types of Devices

The FDA hasn’t approved any over-the-counter monitors or apps for narcolepsy treatment. But some devices may gather information that may help you and your doctor better manage your condition.

Actigraphs. You wear these devices to bed on your wrist, finger, or ankle. Actigraphs record your motions as an indirect way to gauge your sleep-wake cycle. They keep tabs on when you wake up and fall asleep, how often you’re disturbed during the night, and you total sleep time, among other things.

These devices may be more accurate than logging your sleep in a notebook. The data may help you notice patterns that may help you spot days or times when your narcolepsy symptoms could flare.


Bed pad or mat. You slip this under the mattress. It measures your movements, such as when you shift from your belly to your side. That kind of motion may be a sign that you’re in light sleep. Some bed mats can record snoring, heart rates, and when you’re in REM or other sleep phases.

Apps. These work with your smartphone to help you analyze your sleep patterns. Apps can detect your snoring, tossing and turning, and even sleep talking. The daily records may help you see how your narcolepsy symptoms change over time. Many sleep apps are free, while you have to buy some premium versions. 


Sleep trackers can give you helpful estimates of what’s happening during your slumber. But they’re not as precise as sleep monitoring devices that doctors use to measure your brain activity and eye movement.

The FDA doesn’t test these devices to ensure their accuracy. So most health insurance plans won’t cover them.

WebMD Medical Reference



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Chest: “Wrist Actigraphy.”

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Nature and Science of Sleep: “Total sleep time obtained from actigraphy versus sleep logs in an academic sleep center and impact on further sleep testing.”

Mayo Clinic: “Actigraphy superior to sleep logs in narcolepsy diagnosis.”

Sleep Medicine: “Clinical and practical considerations in the pharmacologic management of narcolepsy.”

Harvard Medical School: “Narcolepsy.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Narcolepsy Fact Sheet.”

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: “Relationship Between Reported and Measured Sleep Times.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Do Sleep Trackers Really Work?”

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: “Comparison of Wearable Trackers’ Ability to Estimate Sleep.”

University of Michigan Health: “Do Sleep Trackers Work? Pros and Cons to Know.”

American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Consumer sleep technology is no substitute for medical evaluation.”

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