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.
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.
Standalone sleep trackers
This is our pick as the best standalone device you can purchase to track your sleep. Withings Sleep Analyzer 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 mattress and plug it in.
In the morning, the gadget will provide you with detailed info on sleep cycles (deep, light and REM) and heart rate. The data it collects automatically makes its way to your phone so is ready to be viewed when you open the app.
It even detects snoring, breathing disturbances and can spot sleep apnea. And it does this accurately even though it lies under a thick mattress. The accompanying smartphone app also dishes out a Sleep Score, a single figure letting you know how restful your sleep really was.
In our review, we found Sleep Analyzer to be an excellent tracking device. A non-wearable, simple solution that just works. Top marks!
For the geeks amongst us, the sleep pad comes with IFTTT integration for automation of certain activities. For example you can use it to dim the lights when you go to bed, turn the radio or thermostat on and off.
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 around 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.
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.
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.
Wearable sleep trackers
Lets start off with one of the leading global wearables brands. Fitbit’s flagship activity tracker, the Charge 4 (or its predecessor the Charge 3), is 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 your activity 24/7.
For a long time, Fitbit’s sleep statistics were fairly basic. But this has changed in recent years. 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. You’ll also get personalized sleep goals; customized bedtime and wake-up target; reminders to stay on schedule, and a sleep schedule history to chart your progress.
Finally, as of this year users also get a chart showing how their blood oxygen levels have changed during the night. You don’t get the actual values, but do get to see whether the changes were large or small. Big dips in blood oxygen can be an indicator of conditions such as sleep apnea. Owners of the Versa and Ionic can also tap into all the above metrics.
Vivosmart 4 is a wearable that attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and 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, oxygen saturation, all day stress and Body Battery 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 also get oxygen saturation figures during the night.
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. If you prefer, instead of Vivosmart 4 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.
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