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Dr. Paruthi on thoughtful approach to trackers 

Dr. Paruthi on thoughtful approach to trackers 

Dr. ParuthiYARMOUTH, Maine – Using health trackers to monitor sleep has become almost as common as using them to count steps, but they can be limited, especially when it comes to serious problems like obstructive sleep apnea, says Dr. Shalini Paruthi. 

“I think we just have to really thoughtfully interpret the data we're getting from these and look for patterns because that can be really helpful,” said Paruthi, a sleep medicine physician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which recently conducted a survey on the use of electronic sleep tracking, and a member of its sleep tech committee. “Devices are getting better but, as of right now, we can’t use these devices to diagnose sleep disorders like OSA. They’re helpful, but they’re not perfect.” 

Paruthi recently spoke with HME News about what to track, and how to use trackers to initiate bigger conversations and self-motivate. 

Behind the data 

When it comes to sleep tracking devices, which include wearables like wristbands and rings, as well as phone apps, it’s all about what they measure, like movement, and what that may mean, says Paruthi.  

“We do still move in our sleep to change positions from time to time, but for the most part, when your brain waves are transitioning to sleep, there is a pretty good stop,” she said. “But if they're tossing and turning a lot during the night, it might track that, as well.” 

Bigger conversation 

For anyone concerned they may have sleep apnea, using trackers to monitor their potential symptoms, like snoring, can be helpful to start a bigger conversation with their doctor, says Paruthi. 

“There are different apps that are available they can detect noises overnight and even playback some recordings,” she said. “Or, if they have a device that is showing that their oxygen levels are dropping below 90%, that's going to be a red flag for them to say, ‘Hey, I need to go talk to my primary care doctor.’” 


With the rise in awareness in recent years about the importance of sleep to good health, people are more motivated to learn their triggers for bad sleep, says Paruthi, and sleep trackers can offer a way to make connections. 

“They know, for example, ‘OK, I probably shouldn't drink caffeine too close to my bedtime,’” she said. “Or, if they notice every time they have one or two glasses of wine, they are seeing a change to their heart rate or having more awakenings. If they're actually aware of these changes and they can see they can compare that data themselves a lot of times, it gives them that motivation to make those changes to improve their health.” 


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