Health & Fitness

Is It Safe To Sleep in Your Fitness Tracker?

August 6, 2022   By Clarisa Mcdonald

There are two types of health-conscious people: those who monitor their every movement in the form of a smartwatch such as Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Garmin, and those who don’t. The wellness craze is real. 

Fitness trackers became seriously popular in 2016, but they’ve been around since the 1970s as heart rate monitors. Today, we notice when people get that satisfying buzz on their wrist indicating that they’ve reached 10,000 steps and can relax for the rest of the day — while the rest of us are thinking about our next meal. 

Monitoring your health is no bad thing. Bulky watches and apps on our cell phones count steps, check heart rate, count calories, record workouts, and track sleep schedules. We want to track everything, including how much shut-eye they get each night. But is it safe to have something running on your body or next to you while you sleep? Let’s take a closer look.

How Do Wearable Devices Work?

Wearable devices are linked to apps that collect data that you can use to track aspects of your day-to-day life — such as the number of steps taken, your heart rate, or sleeping patterns.

Sleep trackers will tell you how often you wake up in the middle of the night and how long it took you to fall asleep. When you rise in the morning, your Fitbit app will register you’re awake and stop tracking your hours of sleep. Among others, Fitbit Charge 5 and Inspire 2 can record how much sleep you got overnight, together with a breakdown of the different stages— light sleep, deep sleep, and REM.

Sleep tracking monitors sleep patterns over time, so you can use this data to help you understand and adjust your sleep habits. Understanding when you enter the sleep stages is important. During deep sleep, your muscles are repaired, memory is consolidated, and hormones are released. 

Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Versa 3, and Fitbit Premium can even access snore detection, a feature that listens for snoring and other noises at night. This helps inform your overall sleep score to measure how soundly you’ve slept.

Are Sleep Trackers Safe?

As sleep trackers measure movements over time, is it safe to be close to something emitting radio frequencies? 

What does Fitbit have to say about emf or radiation from their devices?

“In general, mobile is a very different beast than the low-powered wearables,” Fitbit CEO James Park told Time. “They transmit energies that are orders of magnitude higher.”

Wi-Fi routers, cell towers, and smart meters emit significantly more EMF radiation than Fitbits.

Fitness trackers record movement with an accelerometer, which is an instrument that measures vibrations. So it assumes that a certain amount of movement means you’re awake, while zero movement means you’re sleeping. The device uses an actigraph to record the activity level of the body. This is how many sleep clinicians measure sleep. Keep in mind that this method of measuring sleep is useful but has its limitations. 

All about EMFs in our Daily Life

Lots of electricity and EMFs are created around the world as 90 percent of the world’s population has access to electricity and uses electrical appliances. Therefore, it is impossible to escape radiation in the modern world.

There’s nothing much to worry about. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) provides primary guidance on radiofrequency EMFs. It is a non-governmental organization recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source. It bases its guidelines on its evaluation over many years of peer-reviewed scientific literature concerning the health effects of RF-EMF exposure.

In 2020, WHO updated its international ICNIRP Guidelines for limiting exposure to larger RF electromagnetic fields ranging from 100 kHz (kilohertz) to 300 GH (gigahertz). This is what we have to look out for. This means that anything below 300 GH is not detrimental.

Low- to mid-frequency EMFs. This is the non-ionizing radiation that is mild and thought harmless to people. Microwave ovens, cellphones, hair dryers, washing machines, power lines, and MRIs produce this type of radiation.

Should we be concerned about the harmful effects of wearable devices? 

According to Dr. Weil, the non-ionising radiation emitted by trackers and wearable technology is similar but less energetic than that of your iPhone or android. So, non-ionizing radiation is so weak that it’s not a huge health concern.

Low-frequency waves from your tracker may only be harmful when the fitness tracker on your wrist is close to your head when you sleep. The American Cancer Society says that when a phone is held at the side of your head, a person’s expected exposure to radio frequency energy increases. 

But according to the World Health Organization, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” 

So, no health problems have yet been linked to the radio frequency energy of mobile phone use – which offers some relief if you’re a chronic worrier.

Again, It is impossible to escape radiation in the modern world. The least we can do is minimize the exposure by being mindful of our usage.  

If you want accurate results on sleep quality

A bigger concern about sleep trackers is that the devices overestimate sleep, which can skew your overall sleep data. There’s not so much concern about it causing cancer, but more that its activity tracking metrics aren’t always accurate.

If you want a more in-depth look at your sleep quality, you’d have to go to a sleep lab for that. Researchers use polysomnography, which uses different instruments to measure your brain waves, oxygen levels, eye movement, heart rate, and muscle activity when you’re asleep.

If you suffer from narcolepsy, sleep apnea, REM sleep behaviour disorder, or chronic insomnia, you’d want a good measure of your sleeping habits. So, visit a sleep lab where they can test you for certain sleep disorders. Otherwise, fitness trackers will simply measure your sleep patterns using an accelerometer.

And if you’re still seeking a good night’s sleep, here’s one thing we can guarantee: cloud-like comfort from the Ecosa mattress.

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