The Best Sleep Trackers – Counting Z’s and More
We all know that a poor night’s sleep makes for a horrible next day. But what factors contribute to our quality of sleep? Will exercise help you get a better night’s rest? Will having a few pints in the evening prevent you from sleeping soundly?
Using a sleep tracker lets you keep tabs on your sleep quality and understand how it can be affected by your lifestyle choices.
Improving the Quality of Your Rest
Sleep trackers can help to encourage good sleeping behaviour by helping you take a look at how much sleep you’re getting and comparing that with how you feel when you wake up.
Knowing how you’re sleeping at night can be a huge first step toward improving the quality of your shut-eye and, by extension, your demeanour and your overall physical health.
If you’re looking to purchase a sleep tracker and get on the path to wellness, you’ve got a few choices. Unfortunately, just looking at all of the available sleep tracking options can tire you out!
But don’t worry: we’ve done a lot of the work for you. Here are the sleep trackers we like best.
Wearable Sleep Trackers
This is probably the most popular category of sleep trackers, though it’s hard to find a wearable that’s a dedicated sleep tracker. All of these are actually fitness trackers with pretty good sleep tracking capabilities. They’re designed for all day use, but they all do a great job of giving you the lowdown on your Z’s.
1. Jawbone Up24
Jawbone’s popular and well received all-purpose activity tracker is perfect for keeping track of your non-activity too. There’s no screen on the Up24, but if you’re serious about sleep tracking, that’s not necessarily a downside, as you won’t be distracted by lights or tempted to check your wrist if you wake up in the middle of the night.
It tracks the length and quality of your sleep, including how many times you wake up, how long you spend in a deep sleep, and how long you’re in bed counting sheep before you finally nod off.
For waking up, there’s a silent alarm that’s just a soft buzz on the wrist; it wakes you without startling you. You do need to remember to switch the Up24 to sleep mode before turning in for the night, which may take some getting used to; forget to activate it, and you’ll lose that night’s sleep data.
It’s super lightweight at just 27g, and it wirelessly syncs via BlueTooth with the Jawbone app on your iOS or Android smartphone.
The Up24 is currently priced at £99, though if you’re the type of person who likes to have the latest and greatest, Jawbone is slated to release the updated Up3 later this year for £149.
you won’t be distracted by lights or tempted to check your wrist in the middle of the night
2. Fitbit Charge
Like the Jawbone Up24, the Fitbit Charge is a hugely popular, daily wear activity tracker that also does a solid job of recording your sleep stats.
It monitors how long you are in bed, how many times you wake up, and more. Plus, it offers two separate sleep modes: a normal one plus a sensitive one for individuals who feel like they have some sleep issues.
It also has a silent alarm that gently vibrates to get you up and running. The Charge doesn’t track deep sleep versus light sleep like some other trackers, but if you want to know how long you spend in dreamland and how many times you roll over during the night, you’ll have access to that information.
Other good features about the Charge are its automatic sleep detection (so you don’t have to set it to sleep mode) and its automatic syncing to Fitbit’s app and online portal. There’s even a social component, which may be good for those who use the Charge as a fitness tracker; we’re not so sure it’s useful for sleep tracking, although we’re sure some users could definitely turn sleep into a competitive sport.
The Charge has a small screen, and it will deliver notifications from your phone to your wrist, including caller ID on incoming calls.
The Fitbit Charge is priced at £99.99. If you want heart rate monitoring as part of your sleep and activity tracking, you can step up to the Fitbit Charge HR, which has a built-in heart rate monitor, for just £20 more.
And, if £99 is too steep for your budget, you can step down to the Fitbit One for £79.99; it’s a slightly less robust tracker but will still give you the same sleep details.
It’s popular, it’s got automatic sleep detection, and it comes in at just under £100. What makes the Charge so good, though, is that is has two separate sleep modes: a standard one, and more sensitive one for those with sleep issues.
You’ll be able to see all of your rollovers and more on the corresponding app. The Charge doesn’t track deep sleep versus light sleep, though according to the sleep specialists quoted above, the only way to do that is by EEG anyway.
Great all-day tracking plus smartphone notification sync and a silent alarm make the Fitbit Charge a great overall value.
some users could definitely turn sleep into a competitive sport.
3. Misfit Shine
The Misfit Shine is made by a company that values simplicity above all else, and that’s reflected in it design and how you interact with it.
Similar to the first sleep tracker on our list, this one has no display, but again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing when we’re talking about sleep trackers. It’s quite small — about the size of a 5p coin — and it can be worn on the wrist, clipped onto your clothing, and dangled from a necklace. There are even Misfit-compatible shirts and socks with places into which you can slip the tiny device.
“Shine” is an apt name for this product if we’re talking about sleep tracking (which, of course, we are), as this product really shines in the sleep department. It monitors deep versus light sleep, REM cycles, total time asleep, and much more. It automatically knows when you nod off for the night, so you don’t have any mode adjusting to do. Plus, it’s a really well rounded tracker, and not just because it’s circular in shape.
It’s waterproof to 50m, so it’s perfect for swimming, running, walking, and even cycling, plus general everyday walking around.
The Shine comes in a variety of colours, and it’s easy to check how close you are to your daily activity goal, even without a display. Just tap the device, and LED lights illuminate the circumference; the more lights you see, the closer you are to success.
It syncs easily with any iOS or Android device, and the corresponding app has a social component, which may be more useful for motivation for activity rather than inactivity. Still, if sharing your snooze stats with friends helps you sleep better, then go ahead and use it.
The Misfit Shine is priced at $99 USD, so it will come in at under £70 — it’s a hugely impressive device for the money.
Misfit has made a name for itself by creating highly functional yet aesthetically simple trackers, and the Shine is no exception. This small, faceless, coin-shaped disc automatically switches from activity to sleep tracking, and it can give you details about deep sleep periods, total sleep time, and more.
It’s also a high quality all-day fitness tracker that can monitor all of your activity: walking, running, cycling, and even swimming (it’s waterproof to 50 metres). Combine all of that with its affordable price (it comes in under £70) and high degree of comfort, and the Misfit Shine stands out as a very worthwhile device.
4. Basis Peak
Basis bills its most recent device as “the ultimate fitness and sleep tracker,” and it’s easy to see why.
For those who are most interested in sleep data, the Peak is a fantastic product. It automatically detects when you’re nodding off, so there’s no mode switching. It can track REM cycles, deep and light sleep, and how restless you are during the night, plus a sleep quality score, all in an easy to read graphical output.
As far as activity goes, the Peak has automatic detection here too. It knows if you’re running, walking, or cycling, and can track distance, time, calories burned, and more.
Its built-in heart rate monitor adds another level of data collection. Plus, unlike the other wearables mentioned here, the Basis Peak offers a crisp, intuitive, and fully interactive touch screen display. You also get motivation notifications and coaching features.
The Peak is also the most expensive wearable mentioned here. It retails for $199 USD, so around £135. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s a sleep tracker that also offers heart rate monitoring plus full activity tracking.
It’s more of a full-on sports watch than a dedicated sleep tracker, but if you’re looking for a well-appointed all-in-one device, the Basis Peak is a pretty nice one.
If you’re looking for a quality sleep tracker with a touchscreen display, the Basis Peak is a solid choice. It’s got heart rate monitoring, coaching features, and the full array of sleep details, plus all of the functionality of a high end sports watch: automatic activity tracking, skin temperature monitoring, advanced goal setting, and more.
It’s on the higher end of the wearable price spectrum at around £135, but you get a highly functional and quite attractive device for the money. It’s easy to see why Basis markets its Peak as “the ultimate fitness and sleep tracker.”
5. Jawbone Up3
What puts the new UP3 above other Jawbone offerings in terms of sleep tracking is its ability to continually monitor your heart rate. This allows the device and the app to better calculate how restful your nights are.
The app also has a Smart Coach feature to give you advice and tips to get better sleep, as well as a silent alarm to gently rouse you. During the day the UP3 is a quality activity tracker, and again, the heart rate monitoring allows it to get a better picture of your total health.
The only downside? You’ve got to switch it into sleep mode before turning in for the night; forget this small but crucial step, and you’ll lose that night’s sleep data. The UP3 is priced at £129.99.
Sleep Trackers You Don’t Wear
If you don’t want to be saddled with an activity tracker wrapped around your wrist or attached to your body all day long, or even at night, you’re not alone.
Many people just like you are predominantly interested in understanding their sleep pattern, not tracking how many steps they’ve taken or how many flights they’ve climbed.
One of these products may be right for you, as they all stay in the bedroom.
6. Withings Aura
One of many elegant devices by French company Withings, the Aura is a true dedicated sleep analyser that takes you from lights out to sun up. It consists of two pieces: a bedside base plus a mattress pad sleep sensor.
To ease you into slumber, it emits a soft light and soothing sounds. Once you’re out, it tracks your heart rate, respiratory rate, movement, and even bed temperature. That last detail is important for understanding how different factors influence your quality of sleep.
When it’s time to get up, a gentle alarm wakes you at the best time in your sleep cycle, so you wake up refreshed and not feeling like you’ve been jolted. There are even built-in power nap and relaxation programs to give you a 20 minute (or however long you want) refresher. Throw in automatic syncing with a smartphone app that gives you an easy to read graphical output of your night, and you’ve got a fantastic sleep tracker.
The only downside?
Priced at £249, the Withings Aura is wickedly expensive for a product that does one thing (though it admittedly does it quite well). However, if you’ve been gradually adding smart devices to your home, the Withings Aura is a great addition that will add some intelligence to your shut eye.
Withings has built a reputation for designing elegant, functional, well-made devices that make the little things in life much better, and the Aura continues that tradition. This is a dedicated smart sleep analyser that consists of two parts: a mattress pad sleep sensor and a bedside base.
It pays soft sounds and shines a gentle light to help you fall asleep, at which point it measures heart rate, respiratory rate, movement, and bed temperature. A smart alarm wakes you at the lightest part of your sleep cycle, and Nest compatibility can help keep your home energy bills low.
Once you’re out, it tracks your heart rate, respiratory rate, movement, and even bed temperature.
The Beddit is a thin sensor that slips right under your bed sheet. You sleep on it, but you barely know its there. Then, it acts like a standard sleep tracker, sensing your cycles and data and then sending it all to its corresponding app (which works with both iOS and Android). The graph it produces of your sleep cycle is attractive and easy to understand.
Like other devices, the Beddit also has a smart alarm to wake you when you’re in a light part of your sleep cycle. In the morning, it offers up your previous night’s sleep score, as well as a few tips to do better next time.
The sensor comes in black or white, though colour probably won’t matter much, since it’s under your bed sheet and out of sight.
The retail price is €149.00, or about £107 — considerably less than the Withings Aura, but also not quite as well-appointed. You won’t get any nature sounds or nightlights or anything like that, but for the price, the Beddit does its job well.
8. Beddit Smart
The Beddit Smart is a new offering from Beddit, and it makes a few improvements over the original Beddit device. It’s just a thin sensor pad that goes under your sheets and tracks your shut-eye.
You don’t really know it’s there, but it syncs with a smartphone app to give you tons of details about your sleep habits: sleep time, resting heart rate, snoring, restlessness, sleep efficiency, and much more.
The new smart measuring feature means you don’t even have to think about tracking — the Beddit Smart starts working automatically. And, at £105.76, it’s priced to sell.
9. ResMed S+
Talk about advanced technology: this sleep tracker works with zero contact at all. You don’t wear it, it doesn’t go on your bed — it does not touch you in any way, yet it’s totally accurate.
The ResMed S+ detects the movements of your body to measure your sleep patterns, sensing light, temperature, noise, motion, and breathing, all from a few feet away. It tracks the duration of your REM cycles, your deep and light sleep, and the number of times you wake up, then tabulates everything to give you a sleep score. The ResMed S+ also keeps tabs on your environment so you can see that oh, at 3am, there was a loud noise that corresponds to a few minutes of restlessness.
The unit sits on your nightstand and plays soothing sounds to help you fall asleep; it even matches the rhythm of the sounds to the pace of your breathing and slows down when you do. It works in conjunction with your smartphone, and its app spends some time getting to know you by asking some personal questions (like if you take any meds and how much alcohol you drink).
The ResMed S+ offers some interesting features, too, like Mind Clear, which takes text notes or voice memos right on its app, allowing you to get things off your mind and sleep better. There’s also the S+ Mentor, which offers tips on getting a better night’s rest.
This device retails for $149 USD, or about £99. Of the three non-wearable sleep trackers mentioned here, this is the most affordable. Plus, it does a great job, especially when you consider that it’s 100% contactless.
The S+ Mentor offers you tips on getting a better night’s rest.
10. Sense Sleep Tracker
It looks more like a decorative knick knack than a piece of sophisticated technology, and the sensor (called a “pill”) clips onto your pillow, but if you want a dedicated sleep tracker that looks good, works well, and won’t break the bank, Sense is a great choice.
It got its start on Kickstarter, raising a whopping $2.4 million USD two years ago, and is now a well-reviewed and popular alternative to wrist-worn sleep trackers. Track multiple sleepers with a second pill, and get all of your details on the corresponding app.
Sense measures details like temperature, humidity, and light and sound levels to find your optimal sleep environment and make suggestions. As for your data, it will give you a nightly sleep score based on how soundly you were out, how quickly you fell asleep, and how much you tossed and turned.
Plus, Sense’s smart alarm will wake you up at just the right time. It retails for $129, or about £82 — not bad, given how much it does and how unintrusive it is.
The Sleep Tracker Alternatives
1. Luna – the Smart Mattress Cover
Luna is a mattress cover that’s both a sleep tracker and electric blanket. It learns your optimal sleep temperature and when you normally go to sleep, then warms up your bed at the right time so you can get to sleep quickly.
It also syncs with Nest and other smarthome devices, so your home’s temperature will be lowered and your doors will be locked when you fall asleep; if you’ve got a smart coffeemaker, Luna can sync with that too so your morning cup is ready when you are.
In addition to all of that, it also syncs with an app to show you sleep phases, heart rate, breathing rate, and so much more. It raised over $1 million USD on Indiegogo this past spring and should ship in February 2016. You can preorder one now: it runs around £160, give or take, depending on the size of your mattress.
2. NeuroOn – The Smart Sleep Mask
It’s horribly behind schedule and totally unconventional, but if you’re hoping to get on a polyphasic sleep schedule, you’d do well to consider the NeuroOn.
It looks like an ordinary sleep mask, but it helps you sleep in shorter spurts multiple times per day to increase your waking time. So, instead of collecting data to show you how you’re sleeping, it collects data to help you sleep more efficiently.
This is clearly an in-demand device, having raised over $400,000 USD on Kickstarter about two years ago, though no one’s gotten their hands on one yet. Still, the NeuroOn looks promising and, unlike the other devices on this list, unique.
It’s available for pre-order for $299 USD (about £190), which is a lot, but when you consider that there’s really nothing else like the NeuroOn out there, the price is more acceptable.
3. Sleep Cycle – The Sleep tracking App
If you’re interested in learning more about your sleep but don’t have the money to spend on a dedicated sleep tracker, or even a basic fitness tracker, how about an inexpensive app to get the job done? You’ll probably be interested in Sleep Cycle for the incredibly low price of £0.79.
This iOS and Android app sits in the corner of your bed and tracks basic sleep data. You won’t get the in-depth analysis of some other trackers, but for the price, Sleep Cycle is pretty good.
Plus, it’s got a smart alarm to wake you in the lightest part of a designated 30 minute sleep cycle. That’s worth a few quid alone.
4. Kokoon Sleep-sensing EEG Headphones
London-based Kokoon is probably the world’s first startup to develop sleep-sensing EEG headphones. This smart wearable device is designed to improve the wearer’s sleep and rest times by playing audio sounds that adjust to their sleep and wake patterns. Considering that one of the most common impediments to productivity in the workplace and stress is the lack of sufficient sleep, Kokoon aims at improving the quality of life by improving sleep quality and helping the wearer understand how they slept, and help them feel more awake when morning comes. The developers also claim that these smart headphones are ideal for power napping during the day.
Kokoon got a vote of confidence from its backers, raising a whopping close to 2 million US dollars from almost 8,500 backers despite seeking just $100,000. The headphones apply the power of modern smartphone algorithms using miniaturised dry EEG sensors they developed to provide clinical-levels of insight into the wearer’s sleep and relaxation. As of November 2, 2015, the development team reported having built a high-quality, reliable application with an advanced UX and UI into the Kokoon headphone and successfully tested it exhaustively as they get ready to start shipping pre-orders.
The Sleep Tracker for You
The sleep tracker you decide to buy will depend on a few factors.
Do you want to track your overall activity, or just sleep? Do you want to wear something all day, or just leave your sleep tools behind in the bedroom? And of course, how much money do you want to spend to get your sleep data?
You’ve got a few options that do several different things, all at various price points. With some careful consideration, you’ll choose the one that suits your lifestyle best.
The (First World) Sleep Problem
Let’s talk a bit about sleeping in general, shall we? You already know that you’re not getting enough sleep. Maybe you’re up at midnight worrying, or maybe you just can’t get comfortable. Or maybe you’re busy — there’s organising and planning to do, books to read and digital media to consumer, and you’ve got just 24 short hours in a day.
Going to sleep feels like giving up! Whatever your reason for staying awake at night, you’re in the company of many others who just aren’t getting enough shut-eye.
Despite what we already know, some of us want a gadget to prove to us, in full digital glory, just how much we’re not sleeping. Some of us use these devices as motivation to see more of the big blue sleeping bars and fewer thin orange restlessness bars, while others are just becoming data junkies.
Whatever the reason, sleep tracking has become immensely popular in recent years, just as fitness tracking has become a favourite pastime among individuals who are thinking about getting more healthy.
But do these sleep tracking devices really work? Can a thin wristlet or bed sensor really tell the difference between deep REM sleep and lying awake but still? If you’re sceptical about all of this, you’re not alone.
Checking the Science of Sleeping
While the average person might see sleep trackers as advanced technology, sleep specialists know better. Dr. Christopher Winter, the Medical Director of Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine in Virginia, isn’t convinced that an accelerometer (which is the sensing mechanism on almost all wearable sleep trackers) is adequate enough for providing full sleep analysis. Other sleep specialists agree, noting that the only true way to discern specific sleep stages is through electroencephalography, or EEG — brain wave measurement. Otherwise, you’re just measuring movement and stillness.
Compared to carefully controlled sleep studies in a lab, wrist worn sleep trackers are less accurate in determining when you’re awake and when you’re asleep. Get the sensors closer to the head or in contact with more parts of the body, and the likelihood of a more accurate reading improves. So, they’re partly accurate, but commercially available sleep trackers will probably never replace a clinical sleep study done in a controlled environment with medical-grade equipment.
The Upside of Sleep Trackers
Whether or not sleep trackers really work the way we think they work or just make some general information visual and pretty, one thing is for sure: they help us acknowledge that there is truly a problem, and they shift our focus away from doing too much and toward sleep.
Prior to the popularity of sleep trackers, we probably knew in the backs of our minds that we had an issue with sleep, but trackers has brought the problem to the forefront. And, as anyone trying to live better can tell you, a good first step in solving a problem is admitting that the problem exists.
In the words of Dr. Winter, “…any device on your wrist that makes you think twice about staying up too late is a good thing.” So, in this spirit, if you’re hoping to improve on the quality of your sleep, using a sleep tracker may be the first step toward a lifetime of better Z’s.
For What It’s Worth
The more scientifically-inclined among us will probably never be interested in a commercially available sleep tracker. However, for the average person, a sleep tracker (whether on the wrist, on the bed, or on something else) is a good motivation for getting more sleep.
And, as some of the newer models have shown us, a smart sleep tracker is a good addition to a smart home, as it can coordinate with other devices to automate many aspects of your life.
If you think the benefits of a sleep tracker outweigh any potential inaccuracies they may collect, we encourage you to check out the ten on this list. One of them is sure to get you on your way to more restful nights and more energetic and productive days.