Sleep-deprived? Using a Sleep App Could Make You Feel Even Worse

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
« Back

Prince William welcomed his brother, Harry, into fatherhood with a gentle dig that will have dads everywhere wincing in recognition. “I’m very pleased and glad to welcome my own brother into the sleep-deprivation society that is parenting,” William said.

It’s no secret that having small kids wrecks your sleep. In fact, a thoroughly depressing study shows that new parents face up to six years of disrupted sleep. Six years!

When you find yourself in that zombified stupor of exhaustion it’s natural to try and take control of the situation. You might focus on quality over quantity and strive to improve the calibre of your remaining hours of shuteye. In which case, you’re likely to turn to a sleep app.

The idea behind a sleep app is that: if it’s not measurable, it’s not manageable. Many apps provide bio-feedback to record your sleeping patterns from restlessness to REM and deep sleep. Armed with that knowledge, you can then attempt to tweak your lifestyle to improve your results.

But a top neurologist suggests the effects of these apps could actually prove counterproductive.

Speaking at the Cheltenham science festival in the UK, Dr Guy Leschziner, a sleep disorder specialist claimed that an obsession with getting enough sleep can often backfire.

“We’ve seen a lot of people who have developed significant insomnia as a result of either sleep trackers or reading certain things about how devastating sleep deprivation is for you,” Leschziner said in The Guardian.

“If you’re measuring your steps and you realise you’re not walking as far as you should you just do a bit more exercise. When you get into that obsessive state about sleep it makes sleep even more difficult.”

Leschziner’s comments follow research published last year that found that people trying to micromanage their sleep using apps were experiencing a new disorder called orthosomnia, a “perfectionist quest to achieve perfect sleep”. For these people, obsessing about the quality of their sleep was resulting in extra anxiety that only compounded their problem

The bottom line: if you’re a new(ish) dad you’re almost certainly not getting enough sleep. But having a sleep tracker alert you to just how few Zzzs you’re actually catching could make you feel even worse.

Here’s to an early night.

Use this SAS expert’s guide to managing chronic sleep deprivation