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 still one of the best options out there for a person who is after a solid 24/7 activity tracker, and who does the occasional run here and there. You’ll 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. But a software update helped changed this. Now, users can 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 sleep feature is called 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 customized insights you may receive.
Furthermore you get personalized sleep goals; customized bedtime and wakeup target; reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress.
Shine 2 looks very much like its predecessor. Its however a bit larger in diameter, and also thinner. At only 8mm thick it is Misfit’s smallest wearables ever. With zero cables, an elegant design, and no need to recharge – Shine 2 is one of the best-looking, lowest-maintenance activity trackers around.
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 – 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.
Vivosmart 3 is a wearable that attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and a smart watch. It takes across all the features of its predecessors and adds more sophisticated fitness tracking tools such as VO2 max and fitness age, all day stress tracking, and the ability to count reps and sets in the gym.
The device follows your progress 24/7. 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.
Essential reading: Which Garmin fitness tracker should you buy
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. Most of Garmin’s wearables track sleep. If you prefer, instead of Vivosmart 3 you can opt for one of the newer devices such as the Vivosport and Vivoactive 3, or pick up something from its sports watch range.
Dedicated sleep trackers
Now owned by Apple, 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. This means no buttons to press, nothing to worry about.
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 so as long as you stay on your side of the bed, you’re fine.
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 and are ready for the day’s challenges.
SleepScore Max is a personalized sleep sensor and monitor. The uniqueness of the device is in the way it monitors your kip time. 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.
Sensors in gizmo 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 SleepScore Max 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.
Originally an Indiegogo funded gadget, this is a strip you place under your bedsheet that measures your sleeping patterns including breathing rate, heart rate and body movement. It is non-wearable and ultra-thin so you’ll barely notice that its there.
The sleep tracking gizmo resembles a long and wide belt with a plastic module at one end which houses the brains of the unit, battery and on/off plate. The band is very soft and threaded with medical grade sleep measuring sensors. You drape the strap across your mattress, under the bedsheet so that the module dangles over the edge of the bed. The removable, magnetic top plate of the module snaps into place and sandwiches the bedsheet between the top and bottom part of the module. From there all you need to do to start recording sleep data is to press the large Start button in the app.
RestOn is a fully featured sleep monitor, perfect for those that love detailed statistics. The comprehensive and slick app will provide you with a wealth of info in the morning including an overall sleep score, with your sleep broken down into deep, mid, light and awake time. You’ll also get data on your heart rate, breathing rate, number of times you turned and room humidity and temperature. Finally, the sleep monitor dishes out personalized advice to help you get a better night’s rest.
Originally announced at CES 2017, the aim of 2Breathe is to help those suffering from insomnia. It uses personalized therapeutic breathing exercises proven to help improve sleep.
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 slumber. 2Breathe recognizes that you are no longer awake, it continues to play the guiding tones for another 10 minutes and then shuts off automatically. The company says, within 2-3 weeks of use you will see an improvement in your sleep.
In the morning, a detailed session report shows users the number of breaths taken, how well they followed the tones and when they fell asleep.
Withings Aura is a well thought-out, comprehensive system designed to monitor and improve sleep quality. It does this 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.
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).
Withings was over taken by Nokia a couple of years ago but has found its footing again. Now that its back with its French owner we are sure the company will continue to go from strength to strength.
Announced at CES 2018 earlier this year, the Finnish company’s sleep mattress pad is designed to be positioned on the side of the bed, at chest level. There is nothing to wear or do. Simply slip the gizmo under your covers and plug it in. In the morning, the gadget will provide you detailed info on sleep cycles (deep, light and REM) and heart rate. It even detects snoring.
The accompanying smartphone app also dishes out a Sleep Score, a single figure letting you know how restful your sleep really was. Then there is something called the Sleep Smarter Programme. This offers guidance to help you create a more balanced sleep schedule.
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