Exploring Sleep Monitoring Devices

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on June 08, 2021

If you have a sleep disorder, 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.

Some devices gather information that may help you and your doctor better manage your condition.


You wear these devices to bed on your wrist, finger, or ankle. Actigraphs record your motions as a way to gauge your sleep-wake cycle. They keep tabs on things like:

  • When you wake up and fall asleep
  • How often you’re disturbed during the night
  • Your total sleep time

When you move less, the actigraph will show that your sleep is deeper. If it turns out you’re not getting enough deep sleep, that may help explain your symptoms.

Actigraphs can help with conditions like:

Insomnia. This makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. If you have it, you might think you’re getting less sleep than you really are. That’s why an actigraph may be more accurate than logging your sleep in a notebook. The actigraph’s data may help you notice patterns that help pinpoint days or times when your symptoms tend to show up more.

Advanced or delayed sleep phase disorder. If you have this, you tend to sleep at different times than most other people. Actigraphy can give you and your doctor insight into your sleep patterns. Your doctor may ask you to wear an actigraph to bed for a week or two and then look at the data.

Bed Pad or Mat

You slip this under the mattress or sheet. 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 phases of sleep.

This information can help with several types of sleep disorders. As your pad or mat collects data over time, it can tell you if your symptoms are improving or getting worse.


These work with your smartphone to help you analyze your sleep patterns. This can be helpful for any number of sleep disorders.

Apps can detect your snoring, tossing and turning, and sleep talking, as well as things like:

  • How much light was in the room
  • The temperature of your sleeping space
  • How much caffeine you had before you went to sleep

The daily records that some apps can provide may help you see how your sleep disorder symptoms change over time.

Many sleep apps are free, but you may have to buy some premium versions.

Do You Need a Sleep Monitoring Device?

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. For example, if you’re lying still, the tracker may think you’re asleep even if you’re not.

It's important to note that the FDA doesn’t test these devices to ensure they work well. So most health insurance plans won’t cover them.

Talk with your doctor to figure out which of these devices might be the best option for you.

Show Sources


Sleep: “In-field assessment of sodium oxybate effect in pediatric type 1 narcolepsy: an actigraphic studyl,” "Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders: Part II, Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, Free-Running Disorder, and Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm."

Chest: “Wrist Actigraphy.”

JMIR mHealth and uHealth: “A Mobile App for Longterm Monitoring of Narcolepsy Symptoms: Design, Development, and Evaluation,” “Accuracy of Fitbit Wristbands in Measuring Sleep Stage Transitions and the Effect of User-Specific Factors.”

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,” "Insomnia."

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,” “Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase.”

Stanford Health Care: “Actigraphy.”

World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: “Overview of Smartphone Applications for Sleep Analysis.” “The Latest Sleep Trackers”




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