What does that Sleep Graph even mean?

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This week's blog looks to unpack Sleep App sleep graphs so you can use them and interpret them more accurately.

Remember, there are sleep labs that you can turn to for assistance if your sleep graph shows you are not getting quality sleep.

Sleep apps rely on your body's movements to record which of the five stages of sleep you are in. The sleep app assumes that no movement means deep sleep (deep sleep is good!) and lots of movement means you are awake (which is bad if it is happening regularly!)

This information is assimilated into a pretty graph (bar, column and pie are popular). The graph below is a bar graph and shows duration of sleep and quality of sleep.

It shows that on Monday Jan 25th, this guy slept for 8 hours 19 minutes and experienced only 27 minutes of restlessness (or sleep disturbance). The restlessness is shown by the lighter lines and so it can be seen that he was most restless between 11 and 12pm and 4 and 5am. He had his deepest sleep between 1am and 4am.

sleep graph copy

On the other hand, this graph is a line graph and is another way of representing the sleep cycles, but has the added benefit of showing awake times.  It shows this guy went to sleep at 10.34pm, woke once at 1.10am and got up for the day at 6.37am. He had his deepest sleep between 11.30pm and 12.30am and 4am and 5am.

sleep graph 1 copy

What impacts the accuracy of the graph?

Restlessness (tossing and turning), sudden jolts (those scary myoclonic twitches) and sitting up (waking up and turning on your lamp and rubbing your head) should show up on your sleep graph if you are using a device with an accurate accelerometer. However, if your movements are not being recorded, then your sleep graph will look much prettier than it really is.

Accuracy is also impacted by the type of device you are using- a recording from your wrist watch will be more accurate than a recording from your phone. As it is recommended that you leave the phone tucked into your bed sheet behind your pillow while you sleep, and so if you get up, drink a glass of water and walk around for 30 minutes, your phone will record this only as a brief moment of intense movement (awake) followed by 30 minutes of deep sleep (there was no movement so you must have been sleeping).

What you tell your sleep app will also influence the results. You will need to turn it on as you are going to bed and signal that you have woken up. Also, most Sleep App's have a section where you can record variables that may impact your sleep such as what you ate or drank, if you experienced work stress and/or if you were traveling.

This is great way of seeing how your lifestyle improves or worsens your sleep. In the graph below, exercise improved this guy's sleep by 15%!

sleep graph 2 copy

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