How to choose the best sleep tracker for you

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A good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. And yet, we live in an age of Netflix excesses, endless TikToks scrolling, and late-night video game marathons.. But if you’re determined to adopt better sleep habits, you can always try to track your sleep.

Before we dive in, a quick note: sleep tracking can be a useful tool, but there are limits to what it can do. The jury is out on how accurate sleep trackers are, and you shouldn’t treat your results as an official diagnosis of sleep disorders, especially since these devices aren’t endorsed by any regulatory body. Instead, you should think of these devices as a way to learn about your sleep patterns to help you improve your sleep hygiene. If you think you might be prone to orthosomnia — or a preoccupation with getting “perfect” sleep — you might want to steer clear, too. With that in mind, here’s how to choose the best sleep tracking method for you.

Types of sleep trackers

Broadly speaking, you can divide sleep trackers into two categories: wearables and non-wearables.

Wearable sleep trackers are mostly fitness trackers and smartwatches that also track sleep. These include Apple Watches, Garmins, Fitbits, etc. But there are also other niche wearable sleep trackers that you don’t wear on your wrist, like the Oura Ring. Meanwhile, the Muse S and Kokoon Nightbuds are head-worn devices.

The Oura Ring may be a more comfortable sleep tracker for people who don’t like wearing watches to sleep.
Photo by Victoria Song/The Verge

Non-wearable sleep trackers include smartphone apps, smart mattress toppers, bedside monitors, or even full smart devices. beds. Some examples include the Withings Sleep, Google Nest Hub and Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed.

The key is to determine if you will feel comfortable wearing something while you sleep. While some people have no problem wearing a watch in bed, others can’t stand it. A sleep tracker that you rip off in the middle of the night is of no help. In that case, something like the Oura Ring or a non-wearable tracker is the best bet. If you’re not sure, try sleeping with a regular watch on for a few days to see how you feel.

wearable sleep trackers

These are the sleep trackers you’re probably most familiar with. These are good options for people who want to consider sleep as part of their overall health. There’s a wide range of prices, with wearable sleep trackers ranging from $50 to $1,000. When buying a device, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want sleep tracking to do anything else?
  • What aspect of my sleep do I want to track?
  • What is the battery life?
  • How much am I willing to spend?

This should help narrow down your choices a bit. For example, if all you want is a dedicated sleep tracker that gives incredibly detailed insights and can last for days on a single charge, Oura Ring and Whoop 4.0 are a good fit. But if you want something that’s going to be multitasking — like tracking your workouts, taking phone calls, or sending notifications — a smartwatch or fitness tracker is the best bet.

Screenshot of the sleep tracking screen in the Halo app

With wearable devices, you can view your detailed sleep results in a companion app.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

These days, most smartwatches and fitness trackers track sleep to some degree. However, your mileage will vary. The Apple Watch, for example, introduced native sleep tracking with watchOS 7, but it was pretty simple. While it lets you easily see how long you’ve slept, there’s no information on sleep stages or how well you recovered during the night. Plus, with an estimated 18-hour battery life, it’s not the best for people who forget to charge their devices.

Fitbit offers a lot more granularity and a holistic look at how your sleep affects the rest of your health. You can see sleep stages, how your sleep patterns compare to others in your demographic, as well as receive a sleep score. Fitbit Premium subscribers can also get a Daily Readiness Score, which rates your sleep and other metrics to determine how much activity you should be getting that day. The Fitbits also get around five to seven days of battery life.

The Whoop 4.0 on someone's wrist

Whoop 4.0 is a tracker that focuses on how sleep affects sports performance.
Photo by Victoria Song/The Verge

These are just two examples. Rugged sports watches from Garmin and Polar also track sleep, have long battery life, and give sleep scores. However, the data you get from these watches tends to be much more focused on how your sleep impacts your athletic performance. Whoop 4.0 is another example of a sleep tracker primarily aimed at athletes.

Each wrist-based sleep tracker will present its sleep data in a different way, but you don’t have to do anything special to get the device to track your sleep. As long as you wear the device, you can just go to bed normally. Here are some tips to get started.

  • Once you’ve paired your tracker with your phone, check the sleep settings in the device’s smartphone app. If your tracker supports it, this is where you’ll find how to customize sleep tracking settings, alarms, sleep goals, and bedtime reminders.
  • Make sure your battery is at least 50% charged before you go to bed.
  • Sync your data soon after you wake up in the morning.
  • If sleep tracking isn’t working, try cleaning the sensors, restarting the device, and reconnecting. You can also try wearing it in a slightly different position. If all else fails, check the manufacturer’s FAQ.

Smartphone apps

Screenshot of the Sleep Cycle app showing sleep quality

The Sleep Cycle app is a popular option if you prefer to use your smartphone.
Picture: Sleep cycle

Another popular method of sleep tracking uses something you already own: your smartphone. Sleep tracking apps typically monitor your movements and ambient sounds (eg snoring, coughing, etc.) to determine the quality of your sleep. Many also offer smart alarm features, sleep insights, and coaching tips. They may also include digital sleep diaries where you can write down any factors that may have impacted your sleep.

These apps aren’t as detailed as wearable devices, but even so, they can be helpful in identifying short-term and long-term sleep patterns. They are also a good option if you think snoring may be keeping you up at night, as they can also record audio. With apps, there is one thing you need to be aware of. If you want the best results, you’ll need to make sure you start and stop a sleep session in the app, rather than just letting it run.

There are hundreds of sleep apps for iPhone and Android phones, but here are some popular options to get you started:

Contactless Sleep Tracking Gadgets

If neither a wearable app nor a smartphone app appeals to you, consider contactless sleep trackers. These are mainly mattresses, smart beds and bedside monitors. These gadgets are attractive options for people who want a really discreet tracker – but beware: they can be much more expensive than wearables and apps.

Mattress mats are exactly what they sound like – a mat with sensors that you slide under or over your mattress. An example is the Withings Sleep. This particular mat is able to measure your breathing rate, heart rate, and movement. Withings also claims it can detect snoring and can be used with IFTTT to program an ideal sleep environment (i.e. dim smart lights, lower smart thermostats, etc.). Other examples are the Temper-Pedic Sleep Tracker, the Beautyrest SleepTracker, and the Eight Pro Cover. Keep in mind that these devices vary widely in price — the Withings Sleep retails for $100, for example, while the Eight Pro blanket will set you back at least $1,600, depending on your mattress size.

The next step is smart beds. These are real mattresses whose positions, firmness and temperature are often adjustable. Many also offer biometric health tracking. Some examples include the Sleep Number 360 smart bed and the Eight Sleep Pod. As you can imagine, this isn’t the most cost-effective way to track sleep — smart beds can cost thousands of dollars. However, if you can afford it, smart beds can also be customized to your personal preferences for a more comfortable night’s sleep.

The second-generation Google Nest Hub introduced sleep tracking.
Photo by Dan Seifert/The Verge

Finally, there are bedside monitors. These are devices that sit on your bedside table and monitor your sleep. The most recognizable example is the Google Nest Hub. The second-generation hub added sleep tracking via Soli radar sensors in the smart display’s bezel. It can track your movements, breathing patterns and snoring. It also monitors the time you spend in bed, as well as the temperature and light in your bedroom.

Another option is SleepScore Max, which tracks many of the same metrics and can generate a report for your doctor. In terms of price, these are some of the more affordable contactless options. The Nest Hub costs around $100, while the SleepScore Max costs around $150.

Hopefully, you now have an idea of ​​which type of sleep tracking is best for you. Sweet dreams and good sleep tracking.

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