About one-third of your life is spent slumbering away. Of that third, how much of it is actually good, restful sleep? I’ve put together this expert guide to the best sleep trackers to help you make an informed decision when buying one for yourself. Check out the Contents table below to see everything this guide holds and to jump to the section you need!
For years the only way to answer that was to do a sleep study. Finally, technology has brought the sleep lab into your home with the advent of sleep trackers. No need for electrodes strapped to your skin and a nerdy technician hovering around with a clipboard!
The best sleep monitors will give you the data you need to understand that mysterious world that goes on while we are powered down.
While they all have the same functions, more or less, each has its own strengths. And, of course, it’s own shortcomings.
Most sleep trackers will monitor your movement in bed to determine how restful your sleep is. Some will monitor heart and breathing rate. And one will even monitor your brainwaves, much like an electrode would do.
All that data then gets reported to you in an easy to understand way. You don’t need to be a specialist to decipher reams of data. Just open the app and it will tell you how well you slept.
If you’re like me, you don’t need a device to tell you how horribly you’ve slept. The rings under my eyes tell the whole story without spending any money.
Unlike the rings under your eyes, sleep trackers tell you when your sleep was suffering and for how long. Understanding your sleep patterns will help you come up with a plan to overcome your restless nights. A sleep monitor is a great first step in getting your sleep back on track.
Why you should track your sleep
Along with nutrition and exercise, sleep is becoming considered an incredibly important factor in one’s health.
No amount of exercise will make you healthy if you are not fully rested.
The more you understand about your sleep cycle, the better. You make decisions about what you eat and how often you exercise. With the information gleaned from a sleep tracker you can now make decisions about how you get your rest.
Here’s an example.
After tracking your sleep you find that you actually get a restful sleep and sleep deeply during the night. So, why do you feel so groggy in the morning? You set your alarm for 8 hours after bedtime and you find you slept for 7.5 hours.
What’s the problem? Well, your alarm is set for a time when you are in a deep sleep. Waking up during that time makes it difficult to get going in the morning.
Your tracker shows you that in actuality, 30 minutes before your alarm is set to wake you, you are in a period of light sleep and that is actually the ideal time for you to wake up.
Now, you set your alarm for that time and, lo and behold, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day!
Without a sleep tracker you would have never made the association.
And that is but one example of how a sleep tracker can improve your sleep cycle.
How do sleep trackers work?
Most sleep trackers use an accelerometer. What that does is monitor your movements. An algorithm then makes a determination to estimate sleep time and quality.
An accelerometer on its own won’t accurately measure sleep stages. You could move just as much in deep sleep stage as in light stage.
Which is why a sleep tracker app on your phone won’t give you much value in understanding your sleep compared to a wearable sleep tracker. An app you download onto your phone might be cost-effective, but not very practical in the long run.
For more detailed information, you need a dedicated sleep tracker that either attach to your body, bed or pillow.
Those ones will monitor your heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature and in some cases brain waves and snoring.
Other sleep trackers are non-intrusive. They sit by your bedside and monitor you and your environment. Humidity levels and levels of particulates in the air can potentially impact your sleep. Knowing those levels and how they correspond to the quality of your sleep can help you change your surroundings to be more favourable to a good night’s sleep.
What sleep tracker is best for me?
That really depends on what kind of information you are looking for. Also, if you want the tracker to be a 24-hour monitor that also tracks everything you do.
Some trackers are just for your sleep. Others will track that as well as your exercise routine and how mobile or sedentary you are throughout the day. How much information you need is up to you.
The beauty of the age we live in, is that the technology has made it possible to have a wide range of options. It’s an embarrassment of choices, for sure!
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and review the best sleep trackers on the market so you can make an informed decision.
The Complete Guide to the Top 7 Best Sleep Trackers
Non-Wearable Sleep Trackers
Let’s start with sleep trackers that you don’t have to wear. These are non-intrusive and provide some unique data that can be quite helpful.
Though they don’t actually touch your skin, they can be quite accurate with your biorhythmic metrics. And by not distracting you while you sleep, they also allow a more realistic display on your sleep habits.
If you are easily distracted by wearing a monitor, then read on about these passive sleep trackers to see which one is right for you.
Beddit Smart 2.0 Sleep Monitor
The makers of Beddit understand that many people cannot sleep comfortably with a device attached to them.
Using a strap that lies on the bed, you simply lay on it and it will monitor your sleep. It’s non-intrusive, which potentially gives more accurate data. The first few nights of using a wearable sleep monitor could have skewed data since the device itself may contribute to a bad night of sleep.
Not the case with the Beddit.
You won’t even know it’s there.
The strap attaches to the mattress with a strip of adhesive so it doesn’t slide off. Lay in on the mattress at chest level.
Now, just download the app and follow the easy instructions. Once you are synched, the Bluetooth Smart sensor will begin relaying information to your smartphone as soon as you lie down to sleep.
You will get readings about your heart rate, number of breaths per minute, the quality and quantity of sleep, your snoring and also your bedroom environment.
Beddit uses an algorithm that analyses all of the information and determines your sleep modes:
- Light sleep
- Deep sleep
- Restless sleep
When you get up at night for a midnight snack or to answer the call of nature, Beddit will track how long you were away from the bed. Then when you return, how long it took to fall back to sleep and when or if your snoring began again.
The next morning it’s time to check your Sleep Score! Beddit takes all the metrics from your sleep and gives you an easy to read and understand sleep score. From 1 to 100 your sleep will be rated.
Beddit knows that most people don’t want to get bogged down in the data. They just want to know how their sleep was.
A quick glance at your score will let you know if your night was restful or not.
When you want to dig down a bit deeper to see the details of your night, the app gives you a sleep timeline so you can see things like:
- What time you went to bed
- When you fell asleep
- When you snored and for how long
- When and for how long your sleep was restless
- Any bed exits
- What time you woke up
The Smart Alarm will wake you at a point of light sleep to help you feel refreshed.
Now the sleep tracker app comes up short is how little help it gives in what to do if your sleep score is low. The advice seems like an afterthought. Examples are: Don’t drink alcohol before bed, turn off your gadgets, etc. It would be better if the advice were more tailored to the actual data and could be more specific to what you actually need to do to improve your score.
That being said, Beddit is ideal for people who just want to passively analyse their sleep. Since it stays on your bed, it won’t give you any data about what you’re doing during the course of your day. It focuses solely on your sleep, and that is a good thing.
S+ by Resmed Sleep Tracker
If you’re not content with just knowing how your sleep is going and want your device to tuck you in at night, there is the S+.
It’s almost like a digital butler. First, with its voice tool, you can tell the S+ your to-do list for the next day so you can go to sleep with an uncluttered mind.
Then the S+ will lull you to sleep with soothing sounds that are synchronized to your breathing rate.
Lastly, the S+ will gently rouse you awake during a light sleep phase in the morning. Greeting you with a non-jarring alarm like a kindly servant nudging you so delicately.
Aside from tracking your sleep metrics without actually wearing anything, the S+ analyses your room. It will tell you if the room is too bright, too noisy, too cold or too hot. All of these things can be affecting your sleep and are easily fixed.
S+ takes a holistic approach to solving your sleep dilemma. Upon going to bed, the app will ask you a few questions about your day: how much caffeine you had, how much alcohol, if you were you stressed, whether you worked out or not. The more you share with your bedside friend, the more tailored the advice will be towards getting better rest.
Sitting discreetly on your night table, the S+ watches you. Using, for lack of a better word, sonar, the S+ watches your breathing pattern and heart rate to deduce what stage of sleep you are in. All that without even touching you.
It takes all the data that you provided before you settled into bed, the room environment and your metrics while sleeping. It then analyses all that data and gives you a sleep score.
The best part of the whole system is how it will then take that score and coach you to get better sleep. Much better than a butler, the S+ is not only sympathetic to your sleeping condition, it is an expert and can tell you what adjustments need to be made.
The S+ Mentor will let you know how to corrects things. It will notice if your REM sleep was lacking and will advise you the best practices to improve it.
Like a good butler, the S+ mentor just wants what is best for you. Doling out advice based on careful observations, it will help you get back on track. If you can’t manage to keep track of quantifying your life, S+ is more than happy to do it for you.
Withings Aura Sleep System
The aim of the Withings Aura is not just to tell you how you have been sleeping. It’s bigger aim is to help you fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly and awake refreshed.
This sleep tracker is a bedside unit with an LED light system that provides luminotherapy, or light therapy. Similar to the Lumie Bodyclock I reviewed. The light settings are designed to promote the release of melatonin in your brain. That hormone is what helps your brain know it is time to shut down. Red wavelengths help get the melatonin flowing and ease you to sleep.
Then in the morning blue wavelengths, which has been shown to inhibit melatonin production, gradually get brighter and smoothly wake you up.
It also has a speaker to wash soothing sounds over you, such as waves or the sound of rain. Or, if you have a Spotify account, you can sync it to your favourite music. If the sounds of Heavy Metal music help you fall asleep, then go for it!
Otherwise, let the sounds of a burbling brook put your mind in a peaceful place.
A sensor pad sits underneath your mattress and records your movements, breathing cycle and heart rate.
While you are sleeping the unit also analyses the room temperature, light levels and noise providing you with a better understanding of how these things are affecting your sleep.
The next day all of this plus your sleep metrics are turned into a graph showing your different stages of sleep and quality of sleep indicators. Indicators such as, how long you slept, how often you woke up and how long it took to fall asleep.
Naps are also important to your sleep health. Luckily, Aura also provides a nap option for analysing any daytime snoozes.
Taking all of this data, arranging it in an easy to understand graph and providing you with tools to help fall asleep and stay asleep make the Withings Aura an indispensable tool in your sleeping arsenal.
Hello Cotton Sense with Sleep Pill
Sitting discreetly by your bedside is a stylish looking ball that could easily pass as just a modern decoration. What it hides is a state of the art sleep tracker.
The Sense unit syncs with a Pill that attaches to your pillowcase. While the Pill monitors your movements to understand when you are sleeping deeply, the Sense is busy analysing the room temperature, light, noise humidity and air quality. It’s the perfect double team of sleep tracking
The Sense will help you fall asleep quickly with soothing sounds designed to put your mind in an ethereal place. Almost like meditating, you will find yourself succumbing to the rhythm and drift off in no time.
Where the Sense comes up a bit short in relation to the other sleep trackers already described, the data is not as detailed as it could be.
For instance, if you snore the Sense will only tell you that the room is loud. It can’t know you are the one causing the noise, like Beddit can.
If form is as important as function to you, then you will get what you are looking for. A nicely designed piece to add to the look of your bedroom while also giving you some insights into your sleep habits.
Wearable Sleep trackers
The downside to wearable sleep trackers is that you have to actually wear them. Yes, that is obvious, I know. How sensitive are you to having a watch or armband on while you try to sleep?
If you are like me, then the answer is, VERY!
They are still worth it, though for two reasons.
One, they give you a lot of data since they are touching your body, unlike the ones that sit on your bedside or under your mattress.
The second reason is that you can wear them the entire day so they double as activity trackers. It’s like your smartphone. Instead of having one device for music, another for a phone and another to surf the web, you have everything in one compact spot.
If you are looking for an all-in-one sleep and activity tracker then check out this list of the best ones out there.
Misfit Shine Sleep Tracker
For those that are sensitive to wearing any kind of watches or jewellery, but, still want to wear a sleep tracker, there is the Misfit Shine.
It not only looks elegant in a modern, industrial way, it also has a very slim profile, making it very unobtrusive and easy to wear. It is so lightweight that you will forget you are even wearing it.
The best part about it is that the sensor is removable from the band. If you are very averse to wearing it, you can clip it to your pyjamas for the same effect.
If you are very averse to wearing it as a watch or armband and sleep in the altogether, well, I’m not sure what to tell you in that case! Actually, I do know what to tell you! It can also be worn as a pendant on your necklace. So, there is your option.
There is one potential downside to using this device, though it is not unique to the Shine. It isn’t completely passive. You must tell it when you are going to bed and when you get up. If you are using it to track your activity, you must also tell it what activity you are doing by logging into the app on your phone.
That is a very minor complaint.
Another feature is ambiguous as it could be a negative or positive depending on your perspective.
I, for one, would rather charge a sleep tracker occasionally rather than replace a battery every few months. Shine has a watch battery that claims a 6-month lifespan. I got 4 months out of mine before it needed to be replaced.
Others like the fact that the Shine never needs to come off of your body, even to recharge. Replacing the battery is a minor inconvenience for them that is offset by the fact that device can accompany them in the shower if need be.
The Shine is a wonderful tool in your daily life to help you get the most out of your day and night. It tracks activity, tracks your diet and lets you know how many calories you burned that day. All that in addition to your sleep patterns.
By monitoring your movement at night while tracking your heart rate, it gives you an idea of when you were in REM sleep or if you were restless. It also includes times that you got up out of bed.
For the price, the stylish design and the function, the Misfit Shine sleep tracker comes highly recommended and is definitely Dozy Owl approved as the best sleep tracker available.
Jawbone UP3 Sleep Tracker
Think of Jawbone UP3 isn’t just a sleep tracker it’s your personal daily coach that you take wherever you go and doesn’t even need to eat or sleep.
Having a little companion like that in your corner can really improve your fitness and sleep.
The Jawbone UP3 not only tracks your activity and sleep, but the Smart Coach app will give you some personalized guidance. It’s just the push you need to really take your health to the next level.
The sensors in the Jawbone sleep tracker are best in class for wearable activity and sleep trackers. Those sensors really shine during your sleep tracking.
They give the device the ability to understand when you fell asleep, what stages of sleep you had such as REM, light and deep. Those metrics are possible by monitoring your resting heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature and galvanic skin response. Those are some details sadly lacking on other wearable sleep trackers.
The jawbone also boasts a vibrating alarm which will wake you during light sleep phase up to 30 minutes before your alarm setting. That might sound too early to rise if the light sleep phase is indeed 30 minutes before you want to wake up, but, waking during that phase is ideal for waking refreshed rather than groggy.
The Jawbone must be charged every day. It doesn’t take long to achieve a full charge. It can be done while you are eating dinner, for example. That could be a deal breaker for some or a selling point for others.
If style points are important to you, then consider that the Jawbone UP3 was designed by Swiss designer Yves Behar.
One thing is for certain, with all the features of the Jawbone UP3 up to and including the sleep tracker function, you get your money’s worth out of this little device.
NeuroOn Intelligent Sleep Mask
The NeuroOn sleep mask could have been the hands-down ultimate in sleep trackers since it is the only one to actually monitor brain waves just as they do in a sleep lab. Maybe one day they will be able to fix some of the shortcomings. For now, the accuracy provided by the NeuroOn comes with a price of a deficiency in ergonomics.
Good or bad ergonomics and comfort are in the eye of the beholder. As such, it still makes sense to give you a review and let you decide if you can live with the negatives in exchange for an incredible bit of technology to improve your sleep.
I’ll begin with the negatives to get that out of the way.
Now you have to ask is it a sleep mask that doubles as a sleep monitor, or a sleep monitor that doubles as a sleep mask? It is an important distinction as it isn’t great as a sleep mask. It’s a little too small to block out the light. Which begs the question Why make a sleep mask if it can’t even perform a sleep mask most basic function?
It is also a bit bulky if you are used to wearing sleep masks that block out the light and fit the face in a much slimmer style.
Strangely, though it monitors your sleep stages with incredible precision, it doesn’t wake you during a light sleep phase as most sleep monitors do. It simply wakes you when you set the alarm to do so. That is bewildering considering how high tech this sleep monitor is.
All that being said, this could help people tremendously and could be worth buying even considering its shortcomings. Luckily, if you order from Amazon, you have peace of mind that comes with their 30-day return policy in case you decide you cannot live with the flaws of design.
Most wearable sleep trackers rely heavily on the accelerometer to understand your sleep patterns.
The NeuroOn uses accelerometry to great effect, but its strength is the fact that it employs dry electrodes to measure electrical activity in the brain, muscles and eyes.
The kind of data that is available by using electrodes is miles ahead of anything you can get from other sleep trackers.
In addition to that, the NeruoOn uses light therapy to reset the user’s circadian rhythm, aka body clock. Using that therapy can promote the release of melatonin, the hormone that washes over the brain and sets the brain to sleep mode.
This is something that can help travellers immensely by negating the effects of jet lag. Previously, a traveller would have to sit in front of a light box to achieve some relief. The Neroon is much more effective and practical as it can be worn on the plane.
This device doesn’t just let you know that you aren’t sleeping well. It actively helps in resetting your sleep and bringing you a restful night.
Previously, to get the same kind of data about your sleep you would have to spend a fortune by going to a sleep lab. Not to mention the discomfort of being strapped with electrodes to a machine and sleeping in an unfamiliar place.
If you are a frequent traveler, work odd hoursac or have tried many sleep therapy methods to no effect, then I think it is worth it to try out the NeuroOn. It could e the sleep tracker that changes your life.
Final Thoughts on Sleep Trackers
I understand how frustrating it can be to be lacking sleep and try to function. Then adding researching the best sleep trackers or other sleep therapy methods into the mix can be daunting and exhausting.
I hope to have helped take the intimidation factor out of the search for a proper sleep monitor, at the very least. Armed with the information in this guide, I think you will be able to determine which one has the features that will best suit your lifestyle and needs.
If you have any questions about any of these sleep trackers or have some feedback on any that you’ve used please let me know in the comments below! I’ll answer any questions you have and your thoughts about the devices I’ve reviewed here may be helpful to others having a hard time deciding.