Somnoloog: ‘Devices that measure your sleep are only of limited reliability’

Lindy Schurman has been struggling with fatigue since she had two car accidents. She uses medication for this, but sometimes still has bad nights. Two years ago she started tracking her sleep with a Fitbit, and now she wouldn’t want to be without it.

“I can now see whether it is true that I slept restlessly. The measurements are correct for me. I can see exactly which nights I forgot my medication,” she tells EditieNL.

She likes to be able to prove it on the basis of her smartwatch that she had a bad night. “Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I have the feeling that I was run over by a truck. Then I can see that my sleep quality was bad. And also how long I slept.”


But are these measurements reliable? Somnologist Sebastiaan Overeem is skeptical about consumer products. “The majority of these types of devices look at physical activity and heart rhythm to estimate in which sleep phase someone is, for which you actually have to measure brain activity. The principle makes sense, but the reliability is limited, and for many products hardly researched”, he tells EditieNL.

The ‘score’ that comes out could also make people worry. “Worrying about your sleep can actually make you sleep worse. We are already getting referrals for patients who are worried about their sleep because of that score.”

New disorder

In fact, a new sleep disorder has been added to this anxiety: orthosomnia. “In addition, people want to achieve the perfect sleep, which makes them sleep worse. They are over-focused on achieving good sleep.”

Yet Overeem is not completely against the use of the devices. “If people like to measure their sleep, that’s fine. But in practice, people themselves also know very well whether they slept well or badly last night.”

Google Nest Hub

Overeem is impressed with the Google Nest Hub. “The measurement technique is cool. You don’t have to wear anything. It’s nice that they don’t make any statements about which sleep phase people are in. They mainly measure whether you are asleep or awake.” But whether it is reliable? “That remains the question, as with other technical sleep aids.”


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