Ask any coach, athlete, personal trainer, or doctor: Sleep is an important, if not the most important part of recovery. You can’t get those gains without regular, quality sleep. But life happens, and sometimes regular quality sleep just isn’t possible. In those cases, studies have shown that naps can be an effective way to boost your recovery and athletic performance. So if you know this, please explain why none of the Garmin smartwatches in my review cabinet will acknowledge my naps.
Miraculously, my occasional bouts of insomnia and Garmin training didn’t overlap much. It is logical. I never sleep better or more regularly than when I’m training for something. That streak ended in recent weeks when my insomnia returned in full force while training with the Epix Pro and the Fenix 7S Pro. Nothing serious, I thought. Insomnia and I go way back, and I know strategically timed naps help me keep functioning until the insomnia passes. Plus, most smartwatches and sleep trackers are responsible for naps to some degree these days. Of course, I assumed that Garmin – one of the most popular smartwatch brands among athletes – did too.
Sure, I was missing something. Garmin has more settings buried in labyrinthine menus than I know what to do with. naps had to be buried there somewhere, and I had too little sleep to find it. But a quick Google search later, Garmin’s support page told me that, “Our activity trackers are designed only to track your typical sleep period and will not display a nap/rest time that falls outside of the primary sleep time for each day.” Some older Garmins had some nap tracking via a sleep mode, but that’s no longer possible on current Garmins.
Instead, setting up a Garmin prompts you to set a sleep period. (This is the same approach as Apple’s sleep schedule for the Apple Watch and iPhone.) Basically, Garmin’s deep sleep tracking only activates during those hours. you can edit your sleep hours manually, but again Garmins only track one sleep session per day. Let’s say you slept from 1am to 7am, but Garmin’s auto-detection messed it up and said you went to bed at 2am. You arrange that in the app. But if you pooped and took a nap from 6:30pm to 7:30pm and Than went to bed at 11:30 pm, the nap doesn’t count. The best thing to do in that scenario is to adjust your sleep time from 6:30 PM. The problem is that you’ve then logged a four-hour waking period as part of your overall sleep, which can lower your sleep score, even if the nap itself was beneficial.
Maybe my sleep-deprived brain needs a little more caffeine, but this is incalculable.
Garmin, like other fitness-focused wearables, takes into account your sleep and other biometric data to calculate how rested and ready to work out you are. Garmin even summarizes it in a handy dandy Training Readiness metric that looks at your sleep, sleep history, recovery time, HRV status, training load and stress history. I’m not surprised my sleep and sleep history bars are bad, but to ignore naps — which can have a noticeable impact on your recovery time — seems silly.
The Oura Ring automatically detects naps and adjusts your readiness and sleep scores to reflect the extra rest. The Whoop 4.0 – a tracker aimed at serious athletes – does the same thing and allows for manual nap tracking. Fitbit and Samsung also automatically detect naps on their wearable devices. Is automatic detection perfect? No. But in general, you can also manually log naps as separate sleep sessions. The point is, it counts. Apple Watches also don’t have a great nap tracking solution, but at least you have access to several third-party sleep tracking apps that integrate with HealthKit.
Not factoring in naps — which can have a noticeable impact on your recovery time — seems silly
However, this does explain why my recovery and readiness data on the Oura Ring and Garmin Fenix 7S Pro don’t match up as well as they normally would. I am aware that this is temporary. Eventually my insomnia will leave me so I can nap in peace, but there is it’s going to be a transitional period where I need to proactively reduce my sleep debt. Naps will also play a role here. I’m lucky enough to have access to multiple platforms as a wearables reviewer, so I can still gather enough data to make up for this mistake. That is not the case for everyone.
And it’s not just athletes and insomniacs who would benefit from it. There are tired parents, jet-lagged travelers, and exhausted shift workers who can track naps to improve their overall sleep. It’s a shame, then, that Garmin sleeps on nap tracking.