Review: Withings Sleep Analyzer, a non-wearable, simple solution that works like a dream
Withings Sleep Analyzer slips under the mattress from where it tracks all aspects of your nightly (and daily) rest. The promise is that it can even detect sleep apnea and snoring.
Essential reading: Ten gadgets for advanced sleep monitoring
The French outfit has rolled the device out in Europe last month, with a US unveiling expected in the near future. This is actually a second generation product which comes with some extras over the company’s original Sleep Tracking Mat.
Withings says that after 3 days of use, more than a half of users increase their amount of sleep by an average of 48 minutes per night for the next 3 nights. Not bad, as most people are chronically sleep deprived.
With no buttons to push and always on the ready, this certainly looks like a no hassle solution for making sure you get enough kip time. But is it really as good as it sounds? I took it through its paces over the past two weeks. Here’s what I made of it.
|Design and setup|
Accuracy & how it stacks up against the competition
Home automation with IFTTT
Design and setup
Withings is well known for its innovative range of health and fitness products. It is a wearable tech pioneer with origins dating back to 2008. Over the years we’ve seen some great products from the company so our expectations are high whenever it comes out with something new.
For example, it was the first to sell a WiFi connected scale, one of the first to release a connected blood pressure monitor and some of the health stats its products capture have yet to be emulated by other wearable tech companies.
The original Sleep Tracking Mat was unveiled around two years ago as a rebranded version of the device that was released under the Nokia banner. To remind, Withings was under the ownership of Nokia between 2016 and mid-2018.
Now we have the next generation product which actually looks very similar to its predecessor. Sleep Analyzer is also designed to be positioned on the side of the bed, at chest level. There is nothing to wear or do. Simply slip the 25 inch x 7.5 inch mat under your mattress and plug it into an electricity outlet.
This is actually a great concept as you don’t need to remember to do anything. There are other standalone sleep monitors on the market, but many of them need to be switched on manually. You won’t have that hassle here.
What’s more, because Sleep Analyzer plugs into a wall socket for power, it’s always on. Which means no charging – ever.
This gadget does one thing and one thing only, it tracks sleep. Everything from a long overnight session to a nap that lasts a handful of minutes. The stats are very detailed but more about that later.
The pad itself is made of soft fabric. Grey in colour it has a very smart design. It is only a few millimeters thick so lies unobtrusively under your mattress. Once in place I didn’t even notice it was there.
The cable which goes from the mat to the electricity socket is the only clue there’s a sleep tracking gizmo connected to the bed. This is great if your bed sits near a wall socket. Most do, so a dangling cable should not be an issue. If you’re one of the unlucky ones and there’s no way to position your bed next to an electricity source, the cable is very lengthy so should suffice. You can always slip it under the carpet.
The pad itself is pretty large which is actually a good thing. My bed’s mattress is around 52 inches in width and 6 inches thick. The pad is only around half that length so I decided to experiment and not position it at the very edge. I found that this allowed me to sleep on either side of the bed. The pad captured the stats with the same accuracy regardless.
You do need to make sure you position it at chest level, though, for accurate results. Having said that, the sleep tracker is designed for one person so if there are two of you sharing the bed you will need to place it at your side. Anything else will lead to confusion. Also, from that point on if someone sleeps on your side of the bed, Sleep Analyzer will think its you. That’s an inherent design flaw with all such devices. You can always delete the entry from the app if that happens.
The setup process is pretty straightforward but it does take about 10-15 minutes to complete. If you’re a new Withings user you’ll need to download the Health Mate app. I am an existing user of their smart scale and some other products so already have this installed. This is the app Withings uses for all of its smart gear, from fitness trackers to smart blood pressure monitors.
From there you’ll need to pair the gizmo in the Devices tab of the app. The process was seamless for me and it connected the sleep tracker directly with the WiFi source in my home. A nice touch is that when Sleep Analyzer detects your presence on the bed, it automatically switches off the Wi-Fi connection. It’s only when you get out of bed that it reactivates it.
The next step is calibration. There is nothing for you to do here except wait for about 10 minutes whilst making sure no-one lies on the bed. You’ll hear a slight whirring noise. I’m not sure what this does but Withings says it is a necessary step in order for the device to learn about your bed. You’ll get a notification when the calibration is done. This is a one time process and you won’t need to repeat it unless you reposition the pad or move it to another bed.
All things considered, I really like the design. The fact that it’s connected to WiFi and a power source means you can forget that it’s there. There are no buttons to push, nothing to remember. Just go about your sleep routine as usual and in the morning or every few days open up the smartphone app to check the stats.
In a sense Sleep Analyzer becomes an extension of your bed – which is what you want from a sleep tracker. To do its thing quietly in the background. The cable is the only thing that will remind you that it’s there.
When you get out of bed in the morning Sleep Analyzer hooks onto the WiFi connection and syncs the stats with your Withings account. This way it’s all there waiting for you to check it out when you open the app.
The data is very rich. What I found interesting was that in addition to tracking sleep during the night, the device was incredibly proficient at picking up naps. It captured everything from a brief 4 minute session where I drifted off while reading a book, to naps lasting an hour or longer. This was actually very useful to me as I tend to go to sleep late, wake up early and make up the time with an afternoon nap.
My fear was that just lying on the bed might trigger a “false positive”. But without fail, Sleep Analyzer was capable of determining when I was actually asleep and when I was just lying on the bed listening to some tunes, surfing the internet or doing something else. It’s actually pretty impressive in its ability to figure out if you’re asleep or not.
As you’d expect, the gadget provides you with detailed info on sleep cycles (deep, light and REM). But it doesn’t stop there. There is a pneumatic sensor that measures your respiratory rate, body movement and a heart rate sensor. Additionally, the thing uses a sound sensor to detect snoring and share the number of snoring episodes and their durations. Finally, Sleep Analyzer is also medically certified to track sleep apnea.
But to keep things simple, your summary starts off with a single digit letting you know how well you slept. This ranges from zero to 100 and everything is colour-coded. The Sleep Score can be tracked on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Scroll down and you’ll get a breakdown of how this was calculated. It’s actually a combination of factors that includes duration, depth (sleep cycles), regularity (an average of your bed and rise times during the past 7 days), interruptions, time to fall asleep and time to get up.
Click on any of these and you’ll get further breakdowns. Everything is accompanied with easy to understand explanations.
Stats lovers will feel right at home.
Then there’s sleep heart rate info. The tech is so sensitive it is capable of measuring your heart rate (peak, lowest and average) without any direct contact with the body. I followed this metric with particular interest as I was sceptical it could be done with accuracy.
For about a week, each morning I compared the results with a Fitbit on my wrist (which also tracks overnight heart rate). The two sometimes matched exactly with the biggest nightly difference being about 2 beats per minute. That’s pretty impressive when you consider Sleep Analyzer measures your heart rate though a thick mattress! For the week there was an average difference of only 1 bpm between the two.
The thing also has a microphone which listens out for snoring. I sometimes play YouTube when I go to sleep or a podcast, and this had no detrimental effect on the snoring function. The stats show I am not someone who snores a lot, averaging about 9 minutes per night.
While all of this is very impressive and interesting to read, the big news is that the device is medically certified for sleep apnea detection. This makes it the world’s first non-invasive sensor that is able detect the condition.
For those not in the know, sleep apnea is characterised by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. These can last from a few seconds to minutes and they happen many times a night. When normal breathing resumes, there may be a choking or snorting sound. Some individuals are so plagued by the condition that they are awakened many times each night. It can, potentially, be life threatening.
I actually did not know that almost everyone experiences sleep apnea to some extent. Most nights I did not, but on some I was assigned a positive AHI score. The letters stand for Apnoea-Hypopnoea Index. The most I had was 4 per hour, which is actually pretty good as anything under 15 is considered to be in the “normal to mild” range. Above 15 is “moderate” and above 30 is “severe” sleep apnea.
The sleep apnea screen also allows you share a health report with your doctor, coach, nutritionist or someone else. Or you could just send it to yourself. You’ll get a preview of the findings which include average sleep length, per cent of nights with a duration longer than 7 hrs, per cent of nights shorter than 5 hrs, AHI (ave/min/max) and sleep heart rate, along with any other data you might have in the app such as blood pressure and weight (captured by other devices).
All in all I found Sleep Analyzer to be a very comprehensive sleep tracker. One of the most complete solutions on the market today. The more I used it the more I was aware of my unhealthy habits. Poor sleep regularity, lots of interruptions, not enough Deep and REM sleep.
You do need to spend some time evaluating the data in order to make full use of it, though. The weekly and quarterly stats help as they summarise everything. I do wish the app would do some of this for you and spit out more recommendations and insights on a regular basis.
I also found that Sleep Analyzer gives a strangely competitive edge to sleeping. If I leave home without my fitness tracker I can’t help but feel there’s not much point in walking. Why walk if the device on my wrist is not counting the steps! Now I get the same thoughts about sleeping. Once I took a nap on the sofa and kicked myself for not remembering to use the bed which has Sleep Analyzer connected to it.
Accuracy & how it compares against the competition
There’s more and more competition in the sleep tracking market. This includes everything from fitness bands to standalone sleep monitors. It seems the Apple Watch is the only popular wrist-wearable that currently doesn’t track sleep (although this may change in the near future).
I pitted Withings Sleep Analyzer against the Garmin Forerunner 935, Fitbit Charge 4 and Resmed Sleep Score Max. The Garmin and Fitbit are wearables which I wore on either wrist. Sleep Score Max is an interesting device that sits next to your bed and uses echo-location (by emitting radio waves) to monitor your breathing and body movement.
For a week I slept with all four devices tracking my sleep. You can see a summary of the results below.
What is instantly evident is how much more data you get with Sleep Analyzer. It is the only device that provides info on breathing disturbances, snoring and sleep apnea. Along with the Fitbit, it is also the only one to provide an average sleep heart rate. Then there’s the all-important nap tracking. The Withings device will capture all of these. Fitbit does as well but only for naps that last more than one hour.
The Sleep Scores were different but this is not surprising considering each company has its own proprietary way of calculating the metric. I found that the Withings score had bigger day-to-day swings than the others, so obviously has an algorithm which is more rewarding or strict depending on your night.
As far as accuracy, this is difficult to judge without conducting a sleep study in the lab. All four devices showed slightly different stats although there was a lot of correlation such as heart rate, time to fall asleep and time to get up.
The sleep cycles and length of sleep results were where the biggest differences were. I think part of the problem is that I am a light and irregular sleeper. Also, I do tend to play music or a podcast when I go to bed. Not a good habit as it results in drifting in and out of sleep for part of the night. Hence, the biggest differences were in the Light Sleep stage. There was more correlation with Deep and REM scores (apart from the Garmin). Considering how good Sleep Analyzer is at catching naps, I have more confidence in its ability to track Light Sleep.
In the Health Mate app you’ll find an option to increase sensitivity of the sensors. I found no need to use this as the device did a perfectly good job at capturing all the stats.
Home automation with IFTTT
Finally, for the geeks amongst us, the sleep pad comes with IFTTT integration for automation of certain activities. This allows you to make your bed smart. You can do nifty things such as controlling lights, thermostats and other smart home devices. Many home automation scenarios can be triggered by simply getting in and out of bed. All of this is done through the Health Mate app.
To use you’ll need to sign up on IFTTT and then download available applets. Think of these as small software programs for enabling certain functions. There are a plethora to choose from as shown in the screen-shot below. The service even integrates with Gmail and Google Drive allowing you to automatically track your sleep times in a Google spreadsheet, or send emails whenever you get out of bed.
I don’t hide that I’m a big fan of Withings Sleep Analyzer. In fact, it has become the Gadgets & Wearables recommended sleep tracking device. It lies incognito under your mattress with no buttons to push or need to charge. Jump into bed, and go to sleep. This is exactly what you want – a no hassle tracker that you forget is even there.
The device captures a wealth of stats. Everything from sleep cycles, to interruptions, sleep heart rate, snoring, breathing disturbances and sleep apnea. And it does this accurately even though it lies under a thick mattress. The data it collects automatically makes its way to the app on your phone so is ready to be viewed in the morning. The main thing on my wish-list are more suggestions and insights on how to improve your sleep.
Withings Sleep Analyzer
I’ve used Sleep Analyzer for a couple of weeks and found it to be an excellent tracking device. A non-wearable, simple solution that just works. Top marks!
Withings Sleep Analyzer is available on withings.com having picked up the CE marking for medical devices. In the EU it costs €129,95 and the UK £119.95. Those across the pond interested in sleep-lab results at home will need to wait a bit longer. Sleep Analyzer will be available in the US, once it receives FDA clearance.
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