Harvard Women's Health Watch

How can I tell if I'm sleeping enough?

Ask the doctor

Q: I have always had difficulty sleeping. Since I have taken to heart the advice for good sleep habits, I think I'm sleeping better, but I'm not sure. I'm in bed about 8.5 hours, but am often restless and get up to go to the bathroom a couple of times during the night. Is there a way to compute how much sleep I'm actually getting?

A: Adequate sleep is an important part of health. While the exact amount needed to maximize health and wellness is not totally clear, many experts recommend around seven to nine hours per night. Adequate sleep is associated with memory, improved mood, better weight control, improved diabetes control, greater resistance to colds, and fewer accidents.

A growing body of data indicates that wearable fitness trackers, while not perfect, provide a fairly accurate way to assess sleep. Fitness trackers mainly use an accelerometer that detects movement, and thus sleep patterns. The information—including how many minutes you are awake and restless and when during the night they occur—is displayed as a graph on a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

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