How are you sleeping these days? Scientists have been mapping our sleep patterns for years and agree that good diet, low stress and plenty of exercise can help us sleep better. But in a constantly connected world filled with deadlines, dramas, snoring loved ones and screaming children, getting a good rest can be nigh on impossible.
The insights offered by sleep monitors and fitness trackers are giving us new ways to think about how well we're resting, and offering personalised tips to help us get better sleep.
Now read: How does sleep tracking actually work?
So can connected technology come to the rescue? We've tracked down the best in sleep technology to help make your nights longer, mornings easier and even tackle snoring partners. These are the trackers that made the cut.
Best sleep tracker
Beddit Smart 3
Based on something health professionals call ballistocardiography (BCG), the third generation Beddit Smart ultra-thin sensor tucks under your sheets and gathers data on sleep quality, duration, heart rate and respiration rate. What we like best about it is how unobtrusive it is – you can even set it to track your sleep automatically. Perhaps the biggest endorsement doesn't come from us, but from Apple, which bought the company for an undisclosed sum, hinting that Cupertino is interested in Beddit's sleep tech for its own gadgets. It didn't happen with the Apple Watch Series 3, but there's always the Series 4.
The sensor itself sits under the top sheet of your bed and is covered in fabric, making it easier to keep it in place without having to stick it down. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy to connect to your smartphone, which harvests the data and gives you a report in the morning. We found the Beddit 3 to be impressively accurate in our testing, picking up most bouts of restlessness and elevated heart rate. It also fed back useful tips we could apply to improve our sleep.
The Beddit 3 is also integrated with eClinicalWorks and Healow, an electronic healthcare record service with more than 115,000 physicians across the US. For an additional cost you'll be able to get a two-week report from Beddit providing all the nitty gritty details of your sleep habits that can be shared with a healthcare professional.
The bad news: since being bought by Apple, you can only pick it up from Apple's own website (and in some stores). Beddit is also phasing out its older devices, like the Beddit 2, and they are incompatible with its new app. It will upgrade you to the Beddit 3 for free, however.
Fitbit Alta HR / Fitbit Ionic
If you're looking for a sleep tracker that you'll actually wear, then Fitbit is your best choice right now. Fitbit is going big on sleep, and both the Fitbit Alta HR and Ionic support Sleep Stages, so they can use heart rate to track whether you're in light, deep or REM sleep and give you actionable insights the next morning. Plus, you can benchmark your results against people of a similar demographic. What we like about these trackers is that they learn your behaviour over time, and will start giving you more and more personalised feedback for getting better rest.
These actionable insights and good tracking accuracy earn this Fitbit duo second place on our list, but if you're on the lookout for a fitness tracker too, this is your winner. On the sleep front, the Ionic is built for the future. It's got a tri-wavelength sensor that'll let the device measure Sp02, which lets you track oxygen in the blood. This will eventually allow the Ionic to track sleep apnea.
The Alta HR's advantage is more immediate: it's smaller and more comfortable to wear in bed. You'll also get more detailed metrics beyond sleep, a more watch-like experience with an app store of sorts, GPS support and Relax guided breathing. These are things the Alta HR lacks, those the device is a lot simpler, slimmer and more affordable. If that's your jam, the Alta HR is where you want to be.
The best of the rest
In 2017 Polar revamped its sleep tracking software with something it calls Sleep Plus. This is just a fancy name for the refreshed platform that works on both the Ar70 tracker and M430 GPS running watch.
Rated: Polar A370 review
Next to Fibit's analysis, Polar breaks the night down into a crude binary of sleep and interruptions, but we have found it to be more accuracy than other competitors. Feedback is a bit more of a two-way street, as Polar will ask you how you feel each day and consider this when giving you feedback.
It's not the most insightful stuff, but it's simple, which will be enough for a lot of people. We hope to see Polar expand these insights over time to deliver more helpful tips for improvement.
Withings is now Nokia, and while that's mostly been a branding exercise it also means the company no longer sells the Aura. You can, however, still pick one up from Amazon while they still have stock. It's still a complete kit for those who regularly suffer from poor sleep – but it's good even if you just fancy a gentler way to drift off and wake up. It works by tracking your sleep patterns and then waking you up during your lightest sleep phase, thereby trying to prevent bear-with-a-sore-head syndrome.
Rated: Withings Aura review
The visible part of the system is a strange-looking bedside lamp that monitors your sleeping environment (noise pollution and temperature) while soothing you with new age sounds and gentle, slowly fluctuating light patterns. Meanwhile, a thin sensor pad under the mattress monitors your sleep patterns throughout the night and sends all the data it collects – heart rate, motion and respiration – to the bedside lamp device which then calculates the most efficient time to gently rouse you from slumber. It also helps you fall asleep by emitting a red glow and playing your choice of music or radio station – both of which gradually fade out.
Dedicated iOS and Android apps let you visualise your sleep patterns and program preferred light sequences and music. The Aura, one of just a handful of sensor-equipped sleep trackers, works much more efficiently than the surfeit of (most) wristband versions out there, but then it is a lot more expensive. The sensor pad helps the Aura to be sufficiently accurate, and we found that the light effect does help with drifting off. Note that the lamp can be bought with or without the sleep tracking pad – get them together if you want to monitor those zzzs.
S+ by ResMed
Like the Aura, the S+ is a pretty large device that sits on your night stand to track your sleep – but unlike the Aura, nothing sits under your mattress. Instead it uses sonar, and those ultrasonic pulses can see straight through your blanket (and PJs) to monitor the movement of your chest as your breathe your way through the different stages of sleep. Or at least that's the idea.
Rated: S+ sleep tracker review
Our testing has shown the accuracy isn't always as spot-on as we'd like when it comes to picking up movements, but where it excels is in its sleep coaching, asking you to tell the app how much caffeine you've had, how stressed you've been, and other factors that may affect your sleep. This then feeds into the sleep tracking data, helping ResMed to coach you with better context. We also like the 'Relax to Sleep' function, which synchronises a sound with your breathing pattern to help you drift off.
The S+ can also use your respiratory rhythm to match the tempo of music it plays while lulling you to sleep. However instead of using the speaker on the S+, it actually plays out of your phone so you'll need the handset nearby. That shouldn't be a problem if it's already charging on your night stand.
Nokia Steel HR
Most of the very best sleep trackers come in either band form or a device that sits on your nightstand. But what if you wanted something that looked a little more traditional, like a hybrid watch? Enter the Nokia Steel HR, formerly known as the Withings Steel HR.
Rated: Nokia Steel HR review
In our testing, accuracy hasn't been perfect, but not terribly off the mark. The data is easy to digest though sadly the insights aren't quite as meaty as we'd like. However, if you're looking for something that's good at the basics when it comes to sleep, the Steel HR is by no means a bad call.
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