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What an App Is Telling Us About How Poorly We Sleep

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The importance of can't be underestimated, but the benefits of catching your z's go beyond banishing under-eye circles. Getting sufficient sleep offers a big boost for productivity and mental alertness, making you more effective at running your business.

Jawbone, a creator of , recently announced the launch of its latest app -- UP 3.1 -- that connects a wristband (called the UP band) to an app on iPhone or android device to help users understand how they sleep, move and eat. The app uses data collected by the UP band to draw correlations between activity patterns and restfulness, tracking deep sleep (or "sound sleep" as Jawbone calls it), then sends personal notifications and actions to users' smartphone to help them improve sleep behaviors.

Andrew Rosenthal, group manager for Jawbone's Wellness Products, says the app's importance is its ability to measure the previously unknowable. "Prior to having a wearable device that tracked your sleep, I didn't know much about my own sleep habits," he says. "I was trying to get the right amount of sleep, trying to get distractions out of the bedroom, trying to get [a good night's] sleep but doing it without any data, without any guidance. We now know how we sleep; not in a sleep lab where it's an artificial environment, but in everyday life."

Related: Why You Should Learn to Nap Like a Pro

The company recently revealed some interesting sleep data it collected when developing the new app. Surveying 40,000 Jawbone UP users, the data provided great insights into how sleep patterns affect productivity.

Technology. A laptop in , for example, resulted in 37 fewer minutes of deep sleep. And those who slept with a mobile phone reduced their sound sleep by 13 minutes.

Sound sleep. Although on average, those who logged seven hours of sleep were 30% more likely to report feeling rested, more optimistic, focused and productive the next day; sufficient sleep was found to be more than simply about the number of hours of shut-eye. Sound sleep, as measured by moments of sleep when the body is completely still, was found to matter most when it came to the recovery and mental performance benefits of sleep.

Related: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Causes of sleeplessness. The study also revealed insights into what causes us to lose sleep. Stress was the leading cause of sleeplessness, with nearly half of users who reported difficulty falling asleep attributing their restlessness to stress. 20% attributed their sleeplessness to room temperature, 18% to simply not feeling tired and only 3% reported difficulty falling asleep thanks to children or noisiness.

The impact of . Entrepreneurs (myself included) are known for their caffeine addiction. To allow users to track caffeine input during the day and understand how caffeine affects their sleep patterns, Jawbone also introduced a free Up Coffee app. After collecting caffeine and sleep data for 10 days, the app tells users whether they're wired, OK, or sleep-ready and at what time of day it's safe to have their last drop of coffee without leaving them with eyes-wide-open all night long. "Getting this immediate feedback on what amount of caffeine is within your system helps you understand yourself in the moment. Crawling into bed, turning off the light, turning over the phone, making sure the laptop is out of the bedroom is only part of the equation. You need to also make sure that you're sleep-ready," says Rosenthal.

Health tracking apps are the latest trend in improving health. Rosenthal says tracking apps are the first step in helping individuals understand and take real actions. In addition to tracking sleep, movement and eating habits, the UP app sends users actionable suggestions called "Today I Wills" (such as, tonight I will go to bed at 11:45). Clicking "I'm in" commits the individual to the action and sends a message to their friends who they share their UP data with. Committing to an action has had great results. "We know we can get people to bed earlier by using these "Today I Will's'," says Rosenthal, adding Jawbone's data shows people who commit to the app's daily suggestions log 23 minutes of additional sleep.

Related: 6 Ways to Make Getting Up Early Work for You

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