It’s official: our devotion to sleep trackers has created an entirely new sleep disorder.
In our efforts to try and get the best sleep possible, we’ve become obsessed in doing so. Researchers have named this latest development “Orthosomnia.” “Ortho” means straight or correct (like why orthodontists have that prefix in their titles, because they’re literally straightening teeth) and “somnia” for “sleep.” And the disorder is being applied to those who become obsessed with the data from their sleep and fitness trackers.
Now, sleep and fitness trackers are not inherently bad, but when users are self-diagnosing themselves with sleep disturbances based on that data alone, it becomes a problem. They convince themselves they have a sleep disorder, even when they might not actually have one.
Although sleep and fitness trackers can offer insight into our daily habits and sleep analysis, they are not infallible. More to the point, they don’t (yet) account for everything that may impact one’s sleep. For example, your sleep tracker might indicate you had a bad night’s sleep if you received less than eight hours, regardless of how well you felt you slept. But, the truth is, different people need different amounts of sleep, and the machine doesn’t take that into consideration.
Instead, sleep trackers are feeding into this idea that there is a perfect night’s sleep, and that if we don’t get that perfect night, we become anxious until we do. This anxiety and worrying, however, is making us sleep worse because we’re so preoccupied with the prospect of having a less than “perfect” (according to the fitness tracker) night’s sleep.
Trackers can do good things, but they can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that’s when it’s time to take them off. If you’re still convinced something is wrong with your sleeping, experts suggest going old school: keep a physical log about your sleep habits. In it, you can write down what time you got up, what time you went to bed, how long you took to fall asleep, and how alert you felt waking up. The information could very well surprise you, and indicate a stark contrast in how your body feels and what your sleep tracker is telling you.
Of course, if sleep issues persist, it’s best to see a doctor and discuss the symptoms with them. But make sure you’re going to the doctor because you feel something’s wrong, not just your sleep tracker.