A good night’s rest is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing. Its importance goes far beyond just making you feel better or banishing under-eye circles. Sleep is your body’s time to recover from the day’s activities, recharge and get ready for the next day’s challenges. Its just as important for your health as eating well and exercising.
Essential reading: Ten gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring
Dubbed as the world’s first non-contact sleep monitor, S+ by ResMed keeps tabs on key sleep related parameters within your environment including loud sounds, light levels and temperature. These are analyzed along with your sleep stats to produce customized suggestions aimed at helping you to get a better night’s rest.
Most interestingly, the gizmo uses radio waves to monitor your breathing and body movement. Similar to the echo location system used by bats, it detects your sleep levels without touching you or the sleeping surface. Which means no mattress strips and no wristbands.
Can a contactless nightstand monitor conjure up quality sleep statistics? Will it actually help you get a better night’s rest? Read on to find out.
Designed to sit next to your bed, S+ comes in the form of a rectangular, brushed metal surround and shiny white pod which houses the brains of the unit. While not particularly attractive, its not an eye sore either and blends well into the surroundings thanks to its simple, minimalistic design.
The pod slots neatly into the 10.7 cm x 5.3cm x 20.6cm frame and attaches securely thanks to a magnetic clip on one side of the frame. This type of setup is convenient as it raises the main unit up away from the surface of the bedside table. With space to maneuver, you can then easily pivot the pod to correctly position the radio wave technology towards your chest.
The other option is to get rid of the frame and simply place the pod on a flat surface. I opted for the first option but can see that the second one can be useful, if for example traveling, as it reduces the storage space needed for the unit.
Resmed has been in the medical equipment game for over 25 years now. The company has lots of experience and it shows. Despite being lightweight, the sleep monitor feels very sturdy, it has good build quality and feels like a quality item.
The pod houses a set of LED lights on the front of it. Depending on the mode S+ is in, the lights can either be green, yellow or red. To ensure minimal disruption, the lights will fade off 15 seconds after starting sleep tracking.
The S+ operates silently and does not have a built-in speaker. Having said that, you do have features which need audio such as Smart Alarm, Relax to Sleep and Relax Daytime. But the sound will come from the accompanying smart device used by the accompanying app rather than the unit itself.
S+ operates by measuring movements during your sleep. Modeled by technology found in nature, it does this by emitting using short pulse of radio waves at 10.5 GHz and then listening for the echo of the pulse. As mentioned, this is similar to the echo location system use by bats to hunt insects!
Clothing and blankets are almost transparent to radio waves at this frequency so the echo signal is mostly generated by reflection from your body. So even when you’re under the covers it still does its thing. As far as S+ is concerned, you are just a watery blob. In case you were wondering, this radio frequency is less than 1/10 of Bluetooth so there is no need to concern yourself about harmful effects. Resmed says S+ meets international safety standards for electronic devices.
In addition to sleep tracking technology, the pod also houses environmental sensors that monitor your bedroom conditions including light levels, ambient temperature and noise. After all, all these factors can influence the quality of your nightly rest.
Thankfully, this is not another device you will need to charge on a regular basis. In fact, there is no battery so the gizmo must be plugged into an electricity outlet in order for it to function. There is a normal micro-USB socket on the rear of the pod which, connects to a dual USB socket letting you keep your smartphone plugged in at the same time.
The first time you install S+ you’ll need to answer profile set up questions in the accompanying smartphone app. The includes info such as your weight, height, age, gender, along with other detailed questions on your sleep habits, lifestyle and more. You can skip this but its best to take the time to fill out the questionnaire. The S+ uses the info later on to provide you with personalized feedback.
The gizmo is designed to sit on your nightstand. It works by detecting the movement of your upper body while you sleep. The pod should be pointing towards your chest, above the level of the mattress, and within its range of 3.9 feet (just over a meter) while it monitors your sleep. Make sure, of course, there are no obstacles between you and the S+ unit.
Its probably a good idea to plug your smart device into on outlet as the S+ is in constant communication with the app via Bluetooth. While not particularly battery draining, if your phone runs out of juice during the night you will lose your sleep data.
I found it very easy to position the unit. What helps is the fact that once switched on, the app shows real-time readings from the wireless bio-motion sensor. This is similar to what you would see on a hospital machine that monitors heart rate. It was impressive to see the monitor picking up on my chest rising as falling as I inhaled and exhaled. Even the smallest positional changes, arm twitches and shrugs registered as spikes or dips on the chart.
Its worth pointing out, the gadget can only be used to track one person at a time. But interestingly, the S+ unit is capable of distinguishing between two people sleeping on the same bed. Just make sure the unit is placed on the side of the bed next to the person who it is tracking. How well it does this is another question. I can imagine it would be difficult to differentiate two people sharing a bed with 100% accuracy.
Unfortunately, the sensor will not automatically pick up on your sleep. In the evening, you will need to manually start a sleep session via the Android or iOS device smartphone app. Given how clever everything else is, it would have been nice if the S+ could automatically detect that someone has jumped into bed.
When you start a session, you’ll be asked how much coffee and alcoholic drinks you consumed that day, about your stress levels and how long you exercised for. It takes less than 15 seconds to answer the questions and its worth taking the time to do it as the info can be used in the website dashboard to determine how your daily habits influence your nightly rest.
S+ utilizes sophisticated algorithms that recognize the combination of respiration and body-movement signals so that the overall sleep state can be assessed. If you’re moving continuously you’re less likely to be asleep. On the other hand, if you’re in deep sleep there will be relatively little movement and your breathing will be much more regular. Makes perfect sense.
All your sleep data will be in your smartphone app in the morning waiting for you. When you’re up, simply press Stop Tracking on the app to end the session. If you forget to do this the S+ will keep going up to a maximum of 14 hours.
First off you get an overall sleep score, a figure you can use to determine at a glance how well you’ve done. This is a score combining multiple elements of your sleep measured against known averages for your age and gender. Below average users are those with an average sleep score below 75. Poor sleep is defined as an average sleep score between 50-60. Very poor sleep is defined as an average sleep score between 30-50.
Tapping on the score will take you through to a pie chart which shows exactly where you missed out. A perfect 100 consists of enough sleep time, enough Deep and REM sleep, little disruption time, little sleep onset latency and ideal bedroom environmental conditions. Its unlikely you will achieve this score very often. I never topped 90 during the weeks I’ve tested it.
Both REM and Deep sleep are important in their own way. The first for mind recovery and the second for replenishing your body. You’ll get a per cent score on both counts. Furthermore, the app will show the number of disruptions you had during the night, along with a timeline of your sleep session, broken down into Deep, Light, REM sleep and wake time.
The historical tab shows your data going back. What I didn’t see, however, is something that would average out my statistics over time, for example for a particular month or week. Everything is displayed in a per day view. Nevertheless, the statistics are very detailed and provide a very useful snapshot of your nightly rest time.
Having the type of data at your disposal is all well and good but the sleep tracking system goes a step further in that it provides daily suggestions on how to improve your kip time. This is based on a combination of your sleep, daily activity and bedroom environmental data. The feedback ranges from more general advice, to suggestions that are specifically tailored to the user.
When you first start using S+, the guidance will target your bedroom’s sleep conditions. Later on you will get more personalized feedback and suggestions based on your individual sleep patterns. Some are useful, others less so.
As an example, my latest sleep insight read as follows: Your REM sleep only lasted 0h 29m. Compare this with the average for your age group which is 1h 24m. During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep sleep and REM sleep. Later in the night, your REM stages become longer. To get more REM sleep, try sleeping an extra 30 to 60 minutes in the morning, when your REM stages are longer.
In addition to the app, there is a web dashboard which provides even more detailed statistics. Here you’ll find a series of easy-to-use, interactive tools that allow you to work with your own sleep data, and to properly understand the way you sleep. You can, for example, chart how coffee or alcohol consumption correlates with how well you slept.
The data is also shared with the Health app on your iPhone. If you have an Apple Watch, you can download an app with color graphs of your sleep history data, insights to your sleep patterns, the Relax Daytime function and more.
The obvious question is whether the sleep tracker is accurate. This is a bit difficult to answer as sleep is not an exact science unless you are hooked up to a Polysomnography (PSG) machine, which is considered to be the gold standard of sleep measurement. Resmed says its technology has been validated in over 10 clinical studies pitting it against just such a device.
Most of today’s sleep tracking options use accelerometers and a few also utilize heart rate sensors. The information you receive from the S+ each morning seems better than what you get from most of the activity trackers out there. It also goes a step further in that it uses this data to provide you with actionable feedback.
Finally, you also have a few other functions. One of these is a Smart Alarm which wakes you in the morning during a light stage of sleep. Simply choose a time window from 15 to 30 minutes during which you’d like to get up, and the audio to be used by your smart device to gently wake you. My personal favorite was the sound of birds chirping in the forrest.
There is also a Relax to Sleep feature which provides soothing sounds synchronized to your own breathing. As you relax, your breathing will slow down as will the sound, leading you into a more calm state. Once you are asleep, the sound will automatically fade and shut off. A similar feature which can be found in the app is called Relax Daytime. Its purpose is not to help you fall asleep, but instead to help you relax during the daytime. Very similar to meditation.
There are lots of sleep monitoring solutions on the market but all of them require some sort of contact with your wrist or the sleeping surface. And this is the biggest distinguishing factor of S+. It sits quietly on your nightstand and monitors your sleep without any physical contact whatsoever. The gizmo does this by emitting radio waves to monitor your breathing and body movement. This info is combined with room temperature, light and noise levels data to provide you with a comprehensive analysis of your night’s rest.
The convenience of a such a product cannot be overstated. It works surprisingly well along with its comprehensive app and other features. The device even provides tips to help improve sleep. Probably the only thing on my wishlist would be a way for S+ to switch on automatically at night.
If you want a solid product that won’t break the bank, that is easy to setup, and that accurately records your various phases of sleep, I can highly recommend S+. The non-invasive nature of it’s tracking makes it one of the most interesting sleep monitoring solutions around.
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