Studies from Garmin and Apple show how poorly we sleep – and how we can fix it

Smartwatches from Garmin and Apple now have impressive sleep-tracking capabilities — and two new studies from the two companies show the wearables can also give us fascinating insights into our collective sleep. The short answer? Most of us could definitely sleep better.

New data from Garmin’s Sleep Score study (opens in new tab) and the sleep health component of the Apple Heart & Movement Study (opens in new tab) tracked participants’ sleep over two different time periods in 2022, according to The General The conclusion from both studies is that about 70% of us don’t get the recommended amount or quality of sleep.

Both studies use different metrics, with Garmin’s being based on the Sleep Score feature found in many of its smartwatches, while Apple’s focusing on sleep durations and times due to the Apple Watch’s current sleep tracking limitations. But that means the studies also provide some nice complementary insights.

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A graph from the Apple Heart & Movement Study showing participants’ sleep duration. (Image credit: Apple Heart & Movement Study)A pie chat from the Garmin Sleep Score study showing how participants’ scores break down (Image credit: Garmin)

For example, Garmin’s data — drawn from the last three months of 2022 — shows that 69% of its participants only achieved a sleep score rated as “poor” or “fair.” This score is based not only on how long you sleep, but also on your heart rate variability, breathing and body movement, among other things. While Garmin watches aren’t among the best sleep trackers, they add a bit more nuance to their data than the Apple Watch.

Apple’s study, conducted between February and June 2022 of Apple Watch wearers using the Apple Research app (opens in new tab), showed that 68.8% of participants did not get the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. The average sleep time was just six hours and 27 minutes.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of both studies are the geographic and age-related differences they uncovered for sleep. Garmin’s data shows that the countries with the worst sleep scores (by some margin) were Japan rather than the US. In contrast, Garmin fans in the Netherlands would be on top of the podium at the Sleep Olympiad if such a competition existed.

Apple’s more US-focused data addresses the differences between the various states. According to the results, residents of Washington, South Dakota, and Idaho had the highest proportion of people getting the recommended amount of sleep, with residents of Hawaii, Mississippi, and West Virginia doing the worst.

A graph from Garmin’s recent study (opens in new tab) of sleep metrics, showing how sleep quality decreases with age. (Image credit: Garmin)

Obviously, many factors skewed this data, including job type and age of the participants, but a clearer finding from Garmin’s study was that our sleep quality declines linearly with age. The Sleep Score by Age graph (above) shows why a night’s sleep might not leave you feeling as refreshed as you did when you were younger.

Another interesting finding from Apple’s study, especially when it comes to getting a sense of how you can improve your sleep quality, is the “sleep variability” data. It compared the health outcomes of those who have regular sleep onset times to those who start sleeping at very different times of the evening over the course of a month.

His findings aligned with a recent Harvard study (opens in new tab) that showed older adults with variable sleep patterns were more likely to have a higher BMI (body mass index), sleep less overall, and sleep more likely to be depressed, among other things show symptoms. For this reason, sticking to a consistent sleep and wake-up schedule is one of the (many) sleep-promoting tips offered in our dedicated Sleep Week 2023 guide. But what else can you do to improve your sleep?

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The Oura ring (above) is currently at the top of our guide to the best sleep trackers. (Image credit: Oura)

When it comes to sleep, many influencing factors can be beyond our control — for example, shift work, a young family, or going through a pandemic can understandably impact our ability to get a regular sleep schedule. But both Apple’s study and our collection of articles for Sleep Week 2023 highlight the many things we can control to improve our sleep.

The Apple Heart & Movement study concludes that “while it’s not always possible to maintain a consistent sleep schedule or amount of sleep (7-9 hours), what matters, just like with exercise, is the long term.” It recommends “taking steps to become more aware of your sleep patterns and learning what works best for you,” including (of course) using the sleep-tracking capabilities of smartwatches like the Apple Watch.

While we don’t consider the Apple Watch one of the best sleep trackers, our Sleep Week Guide agrees with one of the Apple study’s conclusions that establishing a consistent routine is key. Some of our other tips include avoiding caffeine after lunch, avoiding intense exercise just before bed, using a good sleep app to help you unwind, or using sleep earplugs to block out noise.

In celebration of Sleep Awareness Week, we also spoke to experts on how to improve your sleep cycles, why you should adopt the 15-minute rule, and top nap tactics. And while using technology to improve your sleep may sound counterintuitive, it can definitely help when done the right way.

For example, a TechRadar writer shared how Fitbit’s sleep-tracking features changed her sleep for the better, while elsewhere we’ve rounded up the best sleep podcasts to help you fall asleep faster (spoiler alert: Sleep With Me and Nothing Much Happens are our current Top 2).

While the new studies from Garmin and Apple may not be comprehensive or conclusive enough to provide deep insights into our sleep patterns, they are a useful stepping stone to finding new ways to improve eye closure and increase your snooze time.


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