My daughter and I conducted a sleep tracking experiment using a wearable device to gain insight into how rest impacts her days.
What Is a Wearable? How Are Wearables Used?
Wearable tech devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches have become popular for monitoring health data. They can track vitals like temperature, heart rate, resting pulse, and sleep cycles.
Earlier this year, I got an Oura Ring to keep tabs on my own sleep and activity patterns. I wanted to better understand my circadian rhythm – my natural 24-hour wake/sleep schedule in sync with sunrise and sunset. Wearables help us tune into that cycle and make little lifestyle tweaks for better rest. And good sleep boosts mood, outlook, and mental sharpness.
Using my wearable has given me insight for improving my sleep habits. It made me wonder – if sleep tracking is so useful for adults, could kids also benefit from it? Monitoring sleep cycles could help children develop healthy routines and rhythms from an early age.
The quantified self approach has advantages, but age appropriateness is key. Still, wearable data guides us toward better self-care. So all ages may find that value.
At-Home Experiment: Nine-Year-Old Meets Wearable
I’m obviously pretty into sleep! So I was curious to see if a sleep tracking wearable could benefit my energetic 9-year-old daughter like it helps me.
For myself, the data guides my activity choices – like whether to have an intense workout or take it easier. It also cues me to start winding down before bedtime. I wondered if the metrics and sleep habits insights would be similarly useful for my kid.
My daughter is a typical bubbly, sometimes moody, child with seemingly boundless energy. I asked if she wanted to try wearing a tracking band to see what we’d learn. She happily agreed and was even excited by the idea!
We already have strict nighttime routines at home to ensure good sleep hygiene. But I wondered if we could take it further by applying sleep data to predict her moods, energy, and daily outlook.
We chose the affordable Amazon Halo band since it tracks sleep without having an on-wrist screen. We picked out a soft, colorful replacement wristband she loved. After syncing it with the app, our experiment was ready to begin!
I figured that if her sleep scores showed quality cycles through all 4 stages, with 90+ scores, she’d have positive energy and mood the next day. And I expected poorer sleep would translate to less daily movement. I was curious to find out!
Mom Was Right (Isn’t She Always?): The Wearable Works
On day one of our sleep tracking experiment, I checked my daughter’s scores when she woke up. Her nightly totals were decent – ranging 80s-mid 90s – so she was getting adequate overall sleep.
But when I examined the cycle graphs, I noticed she wasn’t quite getting enough of the deep, Stage 3 sleep that happens more in the first half of the night. This stage is critical for body healing and growth, memory, and creativity.
So one night as I tucked her in, I actually told her “Be sure to tell your brain to get 10% more deep sleep!” She just gave me a confused look. Hey, it was worth trying!
Stage 3 is also called delta or slow-wave sleep. In this phase, breathing, pulse and muscles relax deeply. It’s the hardest stage to wake someone from.
I wanted to see if we could optimize my daughter’s time in restorative Stage 3 sleep by tracking it closely. Getting enough is key, especially for growing kids.
Within just a short time, I spotted a clear pattern – when my daughter’s sleep scores dipped under the mid-80s, she struggled more the next day. On those lower-quality sleep nights, she’d get tired early, have trouble focusing on remote school lessons, and seem sluggish in general. Her moodiness increased too.
And the activity tracking matched that. My daughter is normally very active and energetic, loving things like running and biking outside. But on days after poor sleep, she was far less likely to show interest in playing or physical activity. Even when I encouraged her to go out and play, she’d immediately refuse or give up midway if the prior night’s sleep was subpar.
So both her sleep data and activity metrics clearly revealed she experienced more exhaustion, trouble concentrating, bad moods, and disinterest in activity when getting less sleep. The trends were plain to see just by closely tracking her sleep quality each night.
On nights when my daughter scored 90+ on sleep quality, it was like she was a whole new kid the next day! After solid sleep, she’d wake up exuberant and engage happily both in online school and other activities.
The better rest also gave her more resilience – minor stressors like a bad grade could simply roll off her back after a good night’s sleep.
Her energy levels clearly matched the high-quality rest she got. On these optimal sleep days, she was much more cheerful and lively. And she’d actively push me to join her in playing and being active rather than the other way around!
Simply put – when her wearable recorded nights of score 90+ sleep, the next day she was easier to be around, more talkative and participatory, while overflowing with vibrant energy she poured into all her favorite physical activities.
Over a few weeks, I found I could generally predict how my daughter’s day would go just by checking that morning’s sleep score. It became easier to grasp her moods, head off trouble spots, and support her through the day and to bedtime.
The sleep data made it clear – bedtime consistency is crucial! Weekend late nights with movies cementing that less sleep throws off her whole next day.
Activities that seem fun at the time for kids like staying up late to watch shows or play games do end up impacting the next day. The late night enjoyment leads to tiredness and crankiness when they don’t get enough sleep. Even illness disrupting sleep can make them feel worse and need daytime naps to recover.
While my daughter loved those weekend movie nights in the moment, the data showed they hurt her sleep consistency. And the negative effects of losing rest lasted through the next day – unlike the brief fun of staying up late which faded fast.
How Wearables Helped Me
As an adult, it’s easy to forget what it was like being a kid – children’s problems can seem trivial. I often dismiss my daughter’s complaints as minor issues, failing to grasp they feel big and important to her.
The sleep tracking experiment changed my perspective. I started approaching my daughter differently each morning based on that night’s sleep data.
If graphs showed restlessness or low sleep scores, I’d give her more patience and leeway. Granting some grace helped smooth out the rough patches in our days together and eased us calmly towards evening.
Gaining visibility into her sleep patterns reminded me – we’re not so different. When I’m tired, I get irritable too. The data simply revealed we share that tendency.
This small but powerful insight stuck with me. By highlighting the impacts of good or bad sleep on her mood and behavior, the wearable helped restore my empathy. It reminded me as both parent and person to offer compassion when someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
While the sleep data was eye-opening, we didn’t overhaul my daughter’s routine. Weekend movie nights stayed! She still needs that childhood freedom.
But the experiment gave me greater empathy for how greatly sleep impacts her days. And it guides how I can best support her on tired “off” days.
We used the Amazon Halo, but there are several kid-friendly sleep trackers – Garmin, Fitbit etc. I wouldn’t recommend constant data tracking for all children. But gentle monitoring can offer helpful insight without being invasive.
In our case, it even got my daughter excited to check her own sleep quality each morning! She beams with pride at her scores.
Not every family needs to quantify their kids’ sleep. You have to do what feels right. But for us, having some visibility provided by a wearable led to vitally improved understanding.