Whatever diet you stick to or gym plan you uphold, it all means nothing if you don’t get enough sleep. After every weekend, sleep is very often the only thing we wish we’d done more of.
The sleep technology market will be worth £63bn by 2020, with tracking devices having had both praise and stick in the wellness world. Many argue the more information you know about your sleep patterns, the better, while others say the accuracy of the data is limited.
Many current sleep trackers come within existing wellness smart products – fitness trackers, for instance – and can give you sleeping advice, wake you up at the lightest part of your sleep, or turn off the lights for you as you go to bed.
They will measure the quality of your rest based on rapid eye movement sleep (or REM), which is the point where you dream most vividly. It’s also when the body does most of its repair work and consolidates the information you’ve gathered during the day.
Things to consider
If you’re a fidgety sleeper (like this tester), the idea of having to wear a sleep tracker at night might actually mean you don’t nod off at all. So be realistic before you shell out – if you can’t sleep with a watch on, a wrist-worn sleep tracker might actually be more counterproductive. There are plenty on the market that can attach to your pillow, go under the mattress, wear as a ring or sit on your nightstand.
We all love a good night’s sleep. If you have data which shows your best ones, it becomes easier to copy them day in, day out. You’ll be horrified to see how little sleep you get, even on “good” nights.
If you’re in the business of counting sheep, these are the pick of the market.
Best for: Multi-functions
Key specs – Size: 42mm diameter; Battery life: 3 days on standard settings; Charge time: 2.5 hours; Extras: Tracks up to 40 exercises, heart rate monitor, GPS, stress management, Spotify, Samsung Pay
The latest Galaxy watch from Samsung is not too different from the last two models in terms of face design. The bezel is easy to use – simply crank the face round to scroll through the many options that allow you to focus on everything from health tracking to messaging (texting and phone calls).
It also records a range of measurements, from steps to calories, and links up to apps like MapMyRun easily. Data on heart rate can also be found, while it can track 40 types of exercise.
When it comes to your sleep though, it’s accurately recorded and detailed back to you on the watch face, and broken down into light, restless and motionless sleeping. If you think stress is impacting your sleep too, a stress tracker reminds you to do some meditative exhale, inhale breathing when your heart rate reaches peak stress levels.
You don’t need to wear the watch at night to track sleep either, merely keep it in close proximity (i.e. on the bedside table) – although we found it gave more accurate readings when we did wear it.
£89.33 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Comfort when sleeping
Key specs – Size: 610mm x 180mm; Battery life: N/A; Charge time: N/A; Extras: Heart rate tracking, snore detection, smart compatibility
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First in the queue for non-contact sleep trackers is the Withings Sleep Pad. The company was bought by Nokia then sold back once Nokia decided to leave the wellness market, so you might see this marketed under both brands.
You simply slip the mat under your mattress – it doesn’t make contact with you at any point – and control it via your smartphone. It then provides data on sleep patterns, sleep phases (the quality of different parts of your sleep through the night), and even how much you snore.
Also, if you have a truly smart home you can integrate Withings with other smart devices – adjust your heating and lighting to match your sleep patterns, all without getting out of bed.
It does only monitor one person’s sleep though – perhaps the next development phase will be a double bed version? And note that the data is only compatible with smartphones, as there is no desktop version of the app.
We did find that sometimes it recorded us as asleep when we were in fact just lying down, so this is something to be aware of when interpreting the data.
£169.77 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Ambient lighting
Key specs – Size: 155 x 105 x 105 mm (lamp), 33 x 15 mm (dot); Battery life: N/A; Charge time: N/A; Extras: Ambient light with over 16 million colour combinations
This is one of the more interesting sleep trackers around, using a combination of an ambient night light and a technological “dot” that sticks to your pillow.
The light, which sits quite stylishly on your dresser, provides pre-bed mood lighting matched to your sleep habits and a sleep-time playlist, both controlled via your smartphone. The dot then returns all the data direct from your snoring head to the lamp, which then sends the data to your smartphone.
This is shown as a sleep cycle, with daily percentages given to wide awake, deep, light and medium sleep, and a further sleep diary created over the course of weeks and months.
It will also give you details on your body temperature and how that relates to your best sleep – so, if you slept best at 28°C, you can tweak the thermostat each night, which we found quite useful.
The app is also proactive, sending you alerts to go to sleep. This is fine when you’re sat dumbly in front of the telly but aggravating when you’re stuck on a night bus or mid-box set cliff hanger.
Sometimes the dot did slip off on to the floor in the night though, which obviously limits its use.
From £280 (€314), Oura
Best for: Anyone looking for a smaller tracker
Key specs – Size: 8mm width; Battery life: 2-3 days; Charge time: 1 hour; Extras: Activity monitoring, water resistant
The ring design makes this option easier to wear than a watch, and more comfortable to sleep with. There are eight sizes to choose from and a variety of colours, meaning there’s something for everyone, while it’s also extremely lightweight.
It looks sleek too – the androgynous design makes it a good style fit for most people, including Prince Harry, who has been spotted wearing one.
To use, simply link the ring to your phone using the app and it will provide you with graphs, heart rate variability and sleep scores each morning for you to read at your leisure. There’s no annoying beeping either, unlike other devices.
There’s a plane mode function too, so you can switch it off when needed and it’s easy to charge on its docking station, which lasts for almost a week.
If you want to go big, there’s a diamond version available for around £1,000.
From £76 ($99.99) plus postage (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Sleep data
Key specs – Size: 88 x 83 x 25 mm; Battery life: N/A; Charge time: N/A; Extras: Alexa compatible
The Beautyrest Sleeptracker works via two pads that slide under the mattress and record both you and your partner’s sleeping patterns (select which side of the bed you sleep on in the app).
You don’t have to wear anything, as the Beautyrest – designed by a specialist sleep brand in the US – monitors heart rate and breathing through your mattress.
Colour-coded graphs show your sleep level; the darker colours represent your deepest sleep. It also provides you with an average heart rate and breath rate, with your daily overall sleep score (out of 100) combining all this data – over 65 is supposed to be preferable.
We found the amount of micro intelligence interesting. You can keep a record of things like how much caffeine you had or the number of nights pets slept on the bed with you to see if these factors impacted your sleep.
You don’t need to worry about battery life either, as it plugs into the mains.
£129.99, John Lewis
Best for: Style
Key specs – Size: 44 x 28 mm; Battery life: 6 months; Charge time: N/A; Extras: Fitness and activity tracking
This clever product is marketed at women, therefore there were some features – menstrual cycle management, for example – that our tester couldn’t test. But we considered its stress and sleep tracking abilities.
Firstly, it’s easily one of the best-looking devices in the wellness market, and the leaf-shaped nugget can be worn as a necklace, bracelet or brooch. This sets it apart from the many plastic, tech-obvious designs on the market – it actually feels surprisingly more like wood. But at nearly 20g, it’s reasonably heavy.
As well as sleep patterns and sleep quality – tracked via a heart rate monitor – the Bellabeat Chakra also records steps, distances walked and calories burned. It’s not for wannabe track stars, but more for someone that wants to keep a light handle on how their body is running.
Its disadvantage is that all data is synced to your smartphone by simply double tapping the device. This can be hit and miss, leaving you sat there repeatedly tapping it in order to get data, and some nights don’t always accurately record. Also, the wake up alarm is a bit too soft and, when worn in bed, you usually find it halfway down the duvet by the time you wake up.
If you want to monitor how much water you drink, you can also buy the Bellabeat water bottle (around £80) to go alongside it which syncs exactly how much water you’ve drunk each day with the Chakra device.
From £69.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Battery life
Key specs – Size: 14-17 cm circumference; Battery life: 5-7 days; Charge time: 2 hours; Extras: Exercise and lifestyle tracking
There’s a sea of wrist trackers available but Fitbit is still the brand leader when it comes to body measurements – if you’re doing it, Fitbit can monitor it.
There are two models – the Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Versa (see below) – that track sleep using your heart rate. They reveal whether you’re in light, deep or REM sleep and give you actionable insights the next morning.
This includes details of not only how long you’ve been asleep for but also how long you’ve been awake, which gives you a better picture of your sleep quality. Plus, you can also compare your results against other users who are of a similar demographic and body type as you, which we found was a useful feature.
The Fitbit Alter HR gets progressively better the longer you use it as you input your own feedback as you go. Also, with around a week’s battery life, it won’t be nodding off when you do.
Best for: Detailed wearable tracking
Key specs – Size: 14-17cm circumference; Battery life: 5-7 days; Charge time: 3 hours; Extras: Exercise and lifestyle tracking, smart watch capabilities
As well as sleep tracking, the Versa is a smart watch, allowing on-screen notifications – messaging, internet, music, fitness tracking information – and move notifications – i.e. “get moving” when you’ve been sat still for a while. The Alta (above) is smaller and perhaps easier to wear in bed if you’re looking for purely sleep tracking.
To demonstrate the extra sleep tech you get with the Versa though, it has a sensor that tracks the amount of oxygen in the blood while you sleep, which can – theoretically – show if your sleep is affected from breathing difficulties. This is great if you’re concerned your sleep apnea or snoring is impacting your sleep.
Its sleep analysis is also well-detailed. You can tell intricately how light and deep each sleep was, with sections marked out where sleep was deep or not. The graphs and charts are also some of the most comprehensive and easiest to use.
The Versa is quite a large device to wear in your sleep though and – for less money and size – you could pick the Alta HR. But the cheaper model lacks some of the other fitness and lifestyle features the Versa has.
From 19, Amazon
Best for: Family comparisons
Key specs – Size: 33 x 15 mm; Battery life: 3-6 months; Charge time: N/A; Extras: None
This device simply sticks to the corner of your pillow while you sleep soundly, so you don’t have the faff of wearing a watch. It can, via your smartphone, play music too, as well as provide a thorough sleep report – including body movement and quality of sleep.
It also works alongside a smart alarm, which can wake you at the moment of your lightest sleep within a set time range, thus giving you that wide awake feeling.
You can easily move it to different rooms if you wanted to record the sleep of various family members – from toddlers to teens – but at under £20, you may just want to splash out on one for every family member. This way you can compare sleeping patterns more easily.
The downside is it can slip off the pillow, meaning you can be crawling under the bed looking for it, which sort of kills its sleep-helping properties.
Pro tip: stick it inside its own pillow case and put it under yours. It won’t go walk about then.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in January 2019.
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