Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality kip time at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens at night. Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.
Essential reading: Compare sleep trackers with our interactive tool
The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
Sleep is big business and the global market for sleep technology is expected to hit $77bn in three years time. About 60% of the demand for such products comes from the anxious and sleep deprived people in the US.
Better sleep starts by knowing what’s happening at night. While this industry is still in its infancy, there has already been a boom in health and fitness wearables offering advanced sleep tracking. In this article, we provide our pick of such devices.
Wearable sleep trackers
Lets start off with one of the leading global wearables brands. Fitbit’s flagship activity tracker, the Charge 2, is pretty much the best option out there for a person who is after a solid 24/7 activity tracker, and who does the occasional run here and there. You will find continuous heart rate monitoring (including resting heart rate), and the device will keeps tabs on steps, distance travelled, floors climbed, active minutes and calories burned.
For a long time, Fitbit’s sleep statistics were fairly basic. Earlier this year, a new software update helped changed this.
For the first time on a Fitbit device, the update enabled users to see how much Light, Deep and REM sleep they are getting each night. The values are calculated by combining accelerometer data, heart rate variability (the time between beats), and Fitbit’s proprietary algorithms.
Essential reading: Fitbit’s new sleep tracking feature explained
The other new feature is called Sleep Insights. This is essentially advice on ways to improve your sleep. Fitbit is using all your activity and diet statistics to discover trends and then dish up personalized guidance. The more you wear your tracker to bed, the more personalized insights you may receive.
The new features are building on earlier firmware update which introduced personalized sleep goals; customized bedtime and wakeup target; reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress.
Although its been more than two years since its been updated, the UP3 is still a great option for those interested in sleep tracking. The device is loaded with state-of-the-art sensors that give you a better understanding of your health and fitness, and like all Jawbone bands, there is a sparkling, discreet design to go along with it.
You will gain a deeper understanding of your sleep as the UP shows you details of Light, Deep and REM sleep. It does this by monitoring your heart-rate, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response.
Just like Charge 2, the UP3 will also provide you with tips throughout the day on how to improve your health and fitness. The app also offers advice on how to get a better night’s sleep, and there’s a vibrating alarm to wake you up in the morning.
The ability to periodically check on your heart rate throughout the day in addition to viewing you resting heart rate, is definitely a welcome addition to its wide range of features.
Shine 2 looks very much like its predecessor. It is however a bit larger in diameter, and also thinner. At only 8mm thick it is Misfit’s thinnest wearable ever. With zero cables, an elegant design, and no need to recharge – Shine 2 is one of the best-looking, lowest-maintenance activity trackers.
The device, which tracks a good deal of activity, can be worn anywhere as it is very small and light. It is also able to sync to Apple Health and a host of third party apps. On the minus side – the Shine 2 does not track heart rate data, something that is becoming standard these days. It also lacks a screen.
The Shine 2 provides detail on your nightly deep, light and REM cycles as well as total sleep duration and periods when you were awake. You can also set the vibrating alarm to wake you up. All importantly, Shine automatically knows when you are asleep so there is no missed data.
The low profile means it is comfortable to wear at night, maximising its effectiveness.
Microsoft Band 2 is without question a more premium version of the original device. The design is better, more sensors have been included, and the software has received subtle improvements.
The device features comprehensive sleep tracking including: sleep duration, times of waking, how long it took to fall asleep, periods of light and restful sleep, calories burned during the night, and resting heart rate. It also has automatic sleep detection so not buttons to press before heading off to bed.
In a way, Band 2 sits somewhere between a fitness band and a smartwatch, but one with more sensors than anything else on the market today. What you get is a 24/7 activity tracker that provides you with a comprehensive health dashboard, a whole lot of sensors squeezed into it, and something that doesn’t look too bad or fit too uncomfortably on your wrist. Band 2 is also one of a select few fitness trackers that include a built-in GPS sensor, which makes it an ideal companion for those early morning runs.
Vivosmart HR features a crisp new screen, a heart rate monitor, automatic activity and sleep tracking and smart notifications. This is another wearable that attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and a smart watch.
The device follows your progress 24/7. The HR tracking is done continuously, in addition to HR tracking during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts you can see current heart rate when you swipe the display.
Sleep tracking is automatic. When you awake in the morning, the night’s data will be displayed in a line graph. The information includes when you fell asleep and what time you woke up, total time asleep, estimated deep versus light sleep and time spent awake. You can see more detailed data through the website.
All in all, Garmin’s tracking provides quite accurate data. Although the sleep statistics are not as comprehensive as some of the other options on the market, they do provide the essentials.
Dedicated sleep trackers
Withings Aura is a well thought-out system designed to monitor and improve sleep quality through the combined use of a contact-free sleep sensor tucked under the mattress, an active light and sound bedside device, and a smartphone app.
The Aura measures heart rate, breathing cycles and body movements to detect which sleep stage you are in. The bedside device will analyze sound, temperature and light levels throughout the night, noting any degradation of the quality of sleep due to your bedroom’s environment, and helps you understand what impacts your sleep negatively.
In the morning, your night’s data is analyzed and turned into a graph showcasing the different stages of sleep (Light, Deep and REM) and key sleep quality indicators (duration of sleep, time it took to fall asleep, number of wake-ups).
This is one of the best devices on the market if you are serious about monitoring your sleep.
Beddit adds intelligence to your bed and gives you insight into your sleep. Utilising Bluetooth 4.0 and Apple iBeacon the gadget enables totally automated sleep measurement.
Thin as two sheets of paper, the Beddit Sleep Tracker is unnoticeable. It doesn’t touch your skin and once installed, requires no further hassle. All you need to do is slip the sensor under your bed sheet. Located where your heart is, Beddit measures the person who’s physically on top of it. It covers a measuring area of 75 centimeters.
In the morning, check your sleep data from your smartphone. Beddit keeps tabs on your sleep time, sleeping patterns, resting heart rate, breathing frequency and snoring time. The tracker also looks at all the important elements of your sleep and summarizes them into one simple number – the SleepScore. Reaching the green-zone means you’ve had a good night’s sleep.
S+ by ResMed is a personalized sleep sensor and monitor. Sensors in S+ detect key sleep-related parameters within your environment including loud sounds, light levels and temperature. These are analyzed along with how they impact your sleep state to produce customized suggestions for helping you to get a better night’s sleep.
Simply place the S+ on your nightstand. The technology behind the device works by detecting the movement of your upper body while you sleep.
The movement it detects consists of the expansion and relaxation of your chest as you breathe in and out, and overall body movements such as positional changes, arm twitches and shrugs. For example, if you’re moving continuously, you’re unlikely to be asleep; conversely, if you’re in deep sleep, there will be relatively little movement, and your breathing will be very regular. The device shows light, heavy and REM sleeping – and gives you an overall sleep score.
Sense is a unique sleep device which originally raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign back in 2014. There have been rumours that the company is closing down, but the tracker remains an interesting option for those interested in sleep tracking.
While the original Sense tracks temperature, light, air quality, humidity and noise, the second generation version keeps tabs on UV light, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, light temperature and barometric pressure. There are also voice controls now, that allow you to find out how well you slept, set your Smart Alarm, play Sleep Sounds, and more just by talking to the tracker.
Your sleep pill recognises your sleep through your movement during the night. Its replaceable battery will last for a year. You only need to keep it clipped to your pillow.
Your sleep timeline shows you a detailed analysis of your sleep cycles and helps you see how even minor interruptions to your sleep can affect the quality of your rest. Each morning, you’ll receive a personalized Sleep Score – based on the conditions of your bedroom, and how well you slept the night before.
The latest addition to this list is 2Breathe. Launched at CES 2017, the aim of the device is to help those suffering from insomnia.
Strap on the tracking module around your waist as you are getting ready to go to bed. 2Breathe will then track the rhythm of your breath and transform this, in real time, into guiding tones that gradually guide you to prolonged exhalation.
As your breathing slows, you should drift into a peaceful sleep. 2Breathe recognizes that you are no longer awake, it continues to play the guiding tones for another 10 minutes and then shuts off automatically. A detailed session report shows users the number of breaths taken, how well they followed the tones and when they fell asleep.
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