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Smartwatch helps mom of five track her sleep, but is the device helpful?

FARR WEST, Utah — To Jenny Boster, sleep is a foreign word. She is a sleep-deprived and recently gave birth to her fifth child, Annie, in December.

She gets a nightly wakeup call around 3:30 a.m. each night when Annie is hungry and has to be up at 7 a.m. to get the rest of her kids on the bus in time for school.

Boster has used a Fitbit to track her sleep patterns for years. Now, with a new baby, tracking her sleep is a little different.

“It can be depressing to look and be like ‘Oh, I only got this much sleep,’ or to see all the times I’m waking up,” she said.

Jenny Boster uses a Fitbit to track her sleep each night.

Boster said the device reminds her how little sleep she’s actually getting. As she scrolled through her Fitbit history on her phone, she found the week Annie was born. She said she slept, “like one hour here, two hours there — that was rough!”

Boster said she wonders if tracking her sleep is a good or bad reminder. Admittedly, she said, “Sometimes it’s like ‘Oh is it helping or is it not?’”

Intermountain Healthcare pulmonologist Dr. Douglas Ross said if the watch causes stress, it is not worth it.

“The more they worry about their sleep and their insomnia, the more they stress,” he said. “And the more they worry, the less sleep comes.”

Jenny Boster plays with two of her daughters after “tummy time.”

Ross said wearable devices often overestimate sleep time and cannot accurately determine sleep quality.

“It takes a full on EEG (electroencephalogram) where we have people’s brain waves that we are monitoring for us to determine if they are in dream sleep, are in deep sleep, or are in this broken up fragmented sleep,” he said.

As a busy mom, however, Boster said the watch encourages her to go to bed on time.

“I can’t help that she has to wake up, but I can see that I’m consistently maybe going to bed too late,” she said.

Jenny Boster looks back on her Fitbit sleep history from the week her daughter was born in December when she only slept a few hours.

Ross said there are a few things we can do to sleep better.

“Go to bed at regular hours; wake up at a regular hour. Limit caffeine usage late in the day,” he said. Ross also mentioned getting bright sunlight in the morning and reducing blue light exposure at night to encourage better sleep.

Ross recommended new moms take naps while their baby is sleeping. In the meantime, Boster said she will sleep when she can.

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