There are many gadgets and apps out there to help you track sleep, and there are other items out there that promise to help your child sleep better.
Consumer sleep and physical activity trackers
For tracking sleep, we have tried the Basis Band, Fitbit Force, Fitbit Flex, Garmin Vivofit, and Nike Fuelband. Of these, the Fitbit Force has been recalled, the Basis Band is simply too bulky to use on a child, and the Nike Fuelband still doesn’t capture sleep well. The Fitbit Flex captures sleep data relatively well and presents it in a very useful format, and fits well on a child or adult. Unfortunately, recharging the Fitbit Flex requires removing a very small piece from the band and then later putting it back in. Even with adults this piece can be vulnerable to loss, but with children it was a deal-breaker. For now, we are using the Garmin Vivofit.
That said, there are definitely accuracy issues with all of these consumer models — compared to our more sensitive research actigraph devices, these consumer models all tended to overestimate sleep somewhat while underestimating arousals and wakings. Luckily, however, these consumer models are consistent in their biases, which means they are still sensitive to change. In other words, if you (or your child) improve things and start sleeping longer, that difference will show up in your numbers. Your total minutes of sleep time reported may not be as accurate as we’d want for research, but you can still tell which direction you’re moving in, which can be incredibly valuable if you’re trying to work on making things better.
We are always looking for new models to test, in the eternal hope of finding one that has a consumer-friendly price point, has a form factor and interface that will work for a child, and collects and reports sleep data in a useful way — so if you know of a new one, let us know so that we can take a look!