Almost exactly one year since its over-achieving crowd-funding campaign, the Beddit sleep monitor is available to buy. A wearable you don’t wear it at all, it drew just over half a million dollars of support on Indiegogo with the promise of measuring your heart rate, your breathing rate and, ultimately, the quality of your unconscious downtime.
We wanted to tell you what we made of this $149 device but we thought we'd sleep on it first.
There's really very little to it straight out of the box. The largest portion by far is the 65cm-long, 3cm-wide, flexible, adhesive sensor strip from which you peel the paper on the back and stick across your bed. It comes off a bit like big, flat PCI computer cables that you’d find inside a PC and ours wasn't all that willing to play ball when we attempted to remove the crinkles from where it had been bundled in the box, as per the instructions. Nonetheless, that didn't seem to upset its functions at all.
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It's up to you whether you want to place it directly under your bed sheet or beneath a mattress protector. We tried it both ways. It was still able to do most of the job when there was an extra few millimetres of linen but it did mean that Beddit wasn't so good at detecting the times that we woke up in the night. Either way, it was never uncomfortable to sleep on nor really detectable at all, despite the fact that it cuts across the mattress at chest level.
The sensor can be moved but there is a warning in the instructions that it will eventually lose its stick. Apparently that's okay though, because you can always replace the adhesive strip with a piece of double-sided sticky tape. We're not that impressed with the idea of having to get all Blue Peter on its ass but, fortunately, we moved it around three or four times in our tests and didn't notice any degradation.
Beddit: Set up
At the end of the sensing strip, and designed to hang down along the edge of the mattress, is the computational gubbins of the device. It felt a little odd setting this thing up to pop out like that but you'll only need a tiny bit of duvet to spare for it to be hidden beyond sight. Out of the unit comes a wire with a USB plug on the end that jams into an adapter and into the mains.
Now, we're not exactly sure how we feel about sleeping on something that's plugged into our electricity supply. Yes, it's convenient and it means no battery issues but what if – and, yeah, we're going to say it – what if you accidentally wee the bed?
“Like any electrical device, there is an electrocution hazard if you get Beddit wet while it is plugged in,” reads the manual. Not the most comforting of words.
Now, it's been a very long time since that kind of accident happened in our lives but why live on the edge like those crazy electric blanket people? There's also the possibility of getting one's bedside glass of water spilled over oneself and said wired up Beddit device.
Are these events likely to occur? Well, not really, no, but why roll the dice in the first place? You get the picture.
Beddit: How it works
If we knew exactly how the Beddit sensor managed to get readings of your heart rate and your respiration on a flexi-strip through your bedsheets, then we'd probably be millionaires too. The fact is that we don't and it doesn't really matter. The point is that it just works and works really very well.
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All you need to do as the user is download the Beddit app to either an Android or iOS device, pair it with the sensor over Bluetooth and then hit the button on your phone to start recording. Now, this doesn't mean that Beddit will assume that you're asleep from that moment. Between readings of your breathing and your pulse, it figures out when you've dropped off.
When you wake up in the morning, it's then a case of heading back to your phone to turn off the recording session and you'll be presented with a summary of how your night went including periods of deeper and lighter sleep, times when you woke up, occasions when you got out of bed and how your breathing and heart rate changed throughout the session.
Your other option is to use Beddit's Smart Alarm system. The idea behind it is to rise in the morning feeling as refreshed as possible. You set the time that you need to wake up by and Beddit will give you a shout at the moment it deems most suitable in the 30 minutes preceding. And that's when you're naturally sleeping at your lightest.
Did we feel more refreshed waking up at 6.45 instead of 7am? Not really. Personally, we'd rather sleep as long as we can no matter what and that's what the professionals advise as well.
Beddit doesn't claim to be medical standard in terms of accuracy and we don't think it is. It felt like it got things right most nights but it's hard to say precisely because of obvious reasons. The general picture seems close enough to make comparisons from one evening to another, though, and so judge good and bad sleeping patterns.
It takes a night or two to get over the awareness that something's watching you while you sleep, and that can cause a bit of anxiety – not the best emotion when you're supposed to be at your most relaxed. Generally, though, we're fairly convinced by what Beddit is able to do.
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What it can't manage is to differentiate dream sleep from non-dream sleep, nor can it give you a break down of exactly which of the five stages of sleep you're in at any moment but it's certainly clear enough to tell the times when our slumber was deeper than others.
If you think you have a sleep problem it seems like a decent, if slightly expensive way of getting some kind of realistic measure of the facts.
It's expensive because you're still going to have to see a specialist and get hold of some medical grade equipment should the problem persist. It's also expensive because there are other sleep trackers – okay, far less impressive ones – that you could use instead, but they have all the activity and fitness functions too. Beddit is for sleep and sleep only.
Beddit: App and dashboard
The Beddit app is something of a frustration. On the one hand, it's a work of graphical user-interface beauty; right out of the top draw. You get very neat bar charts, line graphs and chronological displays of how long you slept for, your heart rate, how many breaths per second and some kind of hypnogram of your sleep cycles through the night.
The trouble is that you can't drill down into any of it. Instead, it's put together as a sleep score based upon how many hours kip you've said you'd like to get each night, and that's rather typical of Beddit. It's all slightly headless. We're not the experts. You tell us how much sleep we should be getting or whether we need to cut down on caffeine, go to bed earlier or whatever it is that we're supposed to be doing to feel better.
The app does have tips and suggestions but they don't seem tailored to the user in any way. Some kind of online dashboard and a way of integrating this data with the rest of our quantified selves is what's needed but presumably that will come. The other option is a deeper sleep analysis that can indicate exactly what each of us might need to change.
In the States, Misfit seems to have taken Beddit under its wing, so expect some link up with Shine and Flash activity data. Our concern would still be that there's little in the way of sleep coaching, though, and only really the measuring of our shut-eye instead.
- Simple to set up, easy to use
- No battery worries
- Generally accurate
- No real interpretation of the data
- No integration with other services
- Accuracy good but not perfect