Data From Sleep Trackers Shouldn’t Replace A Trip To The Doctor, Experts Warn

As the popularity of sleep tracking devices and apps grows, an increasing number of medical experts report they’re being asked to analyze patient-generated data from these programs in an attempt to assess patient sleep quality. This has motivated a major professional organization to take a stand on the use of patient-generated data in the diagnosis of sleep disorders.

Their conclusion? It’s too soon to utilize data from sleep trackers when seeking a diagnosis for sleep issues.

In a position statement published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued a warning to both consumers and clinicians that Consumer Sleep Technologies, which include non-prescription devices used to monitor or improve sleep, may not be accurate and should not replace actual medical diagnostic testing.

“Given the heightened public awareness of the importance of sleep, and of diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, I believe we will continue to see more patient-generated health data,” said lead author Dr. Seema Khosla, the medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep in a release. “We need some guidance both for how to utilize consumer sleep technology in our practice and also how to communicate with our patients about the specific metrics their devices are measuring.”


The Concerns

AASM is the leading clinical professional society dedicated to the promotion of sleep health. The academy expresses concerns about the use of CST wearables and smartphone apps because in many cases, the data they provide lacks validation.

In its official statement, the academy noted that many CSTs are sold as lifestyle/entertainment devices and thus do not fall under the oversight of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Given the lack of validation and [FDA] clearance, CSTs cannot be utilized for the diagnosis and/or treatment of sleep disorders at this time,” wrote the academy.

Consumers are urged to seek professional medical attention if they have questions or concerns regarding their sleep health and to not treat the data provided by their devices as a medical diagnosis.

RELATED: Are Sleep Tracking Apps Causing People To Obsess Over Their Sleep? 

“While technology is advancing rapidly, and we are following the trends closely, consumer sleep devices currently are unable to diagnose sleep disorders,” said AASM President Dr. Ilene Rosen. “Individuals who are dissatisfied with their sleep, experiencing an ongoing sleep problem, or struggling with excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue should discuss this important issue with a licensed medical provider, regardless of what their wearable or other consumer sleep technology device tells them.”

One good thing about the increased use of these monitors and apps? Heightened awareness around the importance of sleep.

“I, like many of my colleagues, have seen more patients presenting to the sleep clinic to discuss their abnormal data,” said Khosla. “They are looking for ways to improve their sleep and reaching out to their local sleep specialists for guidance. I believe consumer sleep technology allows us to partner with our patients to improve their sleep.”

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek a licensed health expert if questions related to one’s own health come up.]

Featured image: Have a nice day Photo/Shutterstock

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Katie Golde

Katie manages the day to day operations of the Mattress Clarity news site and reviews sleep products in addition to writing and editing sleep news.She hails from Austin, where she lives with her growing family. She is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and has a background in health and science content. Her work can be found in print and online publications like Discover Magazine, USA Today and The Huffington Post.