Making Sense of Sleep Sensors: How Sleep Sensing Technologies Support and Undermine Sleep Health

Ruth Ravichandran, Sang-Wha Sien, Shwetak Patel, Julie A. Kientz, Laura R. Pina


Sleep is an important aspect of our health, but it is difficult for people to track manually because it is an unconscious activity. The ability to sense sleep has aimed to lower the barriers of tracking sleep. Although sleep sensors are widely available, their usefulness and potential to promote healthy sleep behaviors has not been fully realized. To understand people’s perspectives on sleep sensing devices and their potential for promoting sleep health, we surveyed 87 and interviewed 12 people who currently use or have previously used sleep sensors, interviewed 5 sleep medical experts, and conducted an in-depth qualitative analysis of 6986 reviews of the most popular commercial sleep sensing technologies. We found that the feedback provided by current sleep sensing technologies affects users’ perceptions of their sleep and encourages goals that are in tension with evidence-based methods for promoting good sleep health. Our research provides design recommendations for improving the feedback of sleep sensing technologies by bridging the gap between expert and user goals.