Sleep Monitoring Technology

Written by Lydia Kariuki

It’s the tech- age and “sleep” as we know it is not being left behind.

It is easy to spot sassy sleep monitoring technology being sold on the high street and this has wide appeal for the young and old alike.

Mostly, this comes in the form of wrist bands, smart watches, headbands, or rings.

To better understand sleep monitoring technology, it is necessary to first grasp the basic anatomy of sleep.


What happens when we sleep?

During sleep, we oscillate between four distinct phases of the sleep cycle: wake, light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM).

Light and deep sleep are called non REM sleep and involve a phase of sleep where growth and restoration occurs.

During REM sleep, the mind is active and vivid dreams occur. This phase is important for problem solving, memory, and learning.

The wake phase happens when we are temporarily awake and between the other phases.

Each phase of sleep is important.


Is sleep monitoring technology all hype?

Digital health has brought about many goodies, and one of them is wearable technology. Such devices are relatively inexpensive and provide a lot of personal information that can be used to guide healthcare.

Biosensors in these devices capture crucial information that can be collected in a natural setting using minimal resources. The users do not need to be actively engaged. Technicians are also not needed to process the information.

The gadgets provide the information in summary form. This may include:

  • The number of minutes slept
  • Motion during sleep
  • Cardiac function during sleep
  • Sleep monitoring
  • Temperature fluctuations and skin conductance

The basic technology in most of these devices is wrist actigraphy. [1]

An actigraph that is linked to motion-based features measures the duration of sleep and wakefulness by measuring gross motor activity.

The novelty of the concept, ease of use, and affordability have contributed to the meteoric rise of sleep monitoring technology.

However, the validity and accuracy of these devices have been questioned. Consequently, it may be argued that this is a mere fad.

One major setback is that this technology does not directly measure sleep itself but rather measures inactivity. As we all know it is possible to be lying still in bed without being asleep. As much as this can be a good guesstimate, it is never a true representation.

The true revolution will happen when sleep trackers evolve and gain the ability to monitor brain waves during the different phases of the sleep cycle.


Image Source


Martin, J. L., & Hakim, A. D. (2011). Wrist actigraphy. Chest, 139(6), 1514–1527.

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Lydia Kariuki

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