Nap Detection: An Insight into how Garmin incorporate this new feature into Its Wellness Ecosystem
Naps are simply short daytime sleep sessions. Garmin claims that one-third of adults indulge in a nap at least once a week and that these brief rest periods have advantages. Furthermore, its new nap technology is starting to appear on top-end Garmin watches to detect, monitor and then provide insights on napping.
Claimed Benefits of Napping
Garmin claims that a well-timed nap has the potential to improve alertness, reduce fatigue, and enhance mood.
Garmin says that naps don’t typically include REM/Deep sleep stages but I think that’s wrong as the following table shows for naps under an hour.
Thus naps DO have a real benefit to athletes. However, my understanding is that the scientific literature also shows that naps reduce the quality of nighttime sleep. So any gain from a nap could well be lost later that night.
Defining a Nap – When is a nap, not a nap?
It’s worth noting that Garmin and some of its competitors continuously record your metrics. This is important as there is no instant when the start of a nap can be recognised in real-time. Thus once Garmin’s nap triggers are met it can assign the recent history as a nap and keep recording the same nap.
Generally, Garmin says that its naps have 2 characteristics
- Sub 3-hour duration. anything longer is a ‘sleep’
- Must not occur near a sleep. So it must end at least 60 minutes before sleep and start 30 minutes after waking from sleep.
Garmin implies that it treats a nap as only being in the light sleep stage. Perhaps its algorithms cannot determine other sleep stages over shorter durations. (Actually, they can’t determine them over longer durations either but that’s another point)
Note: Oura requires 30 minutes before it starts logging a nap
Garmin also provides nap coaching to a degree in that it can advise you to take naps if your Garmin calendar shows a travel event spanning multiple time zones.
General Nap Recommendations
- Take a nap midway between your nighttime waking and sleeping
- Optimise your sleep hygiene for your nighttime sleep first, including regular sleep/wake schedules
- Garmin claims a 10-20 minute nap is ideal and that it should be kept under 30 minutes. Doing this minimises the impact on nighttime sleep quality.
Q: Is Garmin the best Sleep Tracker?
A: Probably not but it’s generally good at correctly logging sleep metrics (excluding sleep stages). I’d trust tech like Oura and Eight Sleep more.
It seems to make sense that Garmin should recognise and record naps as its technology is capable of doing that well.
However, extrapolating the same information to determine recovery benefits and the precise impact on nighttime sleep seems to me somewhat dubious. Furthermore to add jet-lag coaching on top seems a step too far. Sure it sounds great…but is it based on science and is it actually great in the real world? Or is it just more pretty smoke and mirrors in software form?
That said I can envisage a sleep-deprived new parent whose sanity can only be maintained by grabbing every last minute of rest in between feeds and changes. A simple, quantification by the tech of your day’s total rest periods makes some sense. In the end, though, a new parent just knows when they are completely knackered and need more sleep. They don’t need a watch to tell them to sleep more nor can a watch tell them when to sleep if life’s factors get in the way (kids).
Sleep Science Links:
- Mednick, S., with Ehrman, E. (2006). Take a nap! Change your life. New York, NY: Workman Publishing.
- Milner, C. E., & Cote, K. A. (2009). Benefits of napping in healthy adults: Impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18, 272–281. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
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