Sleep. Those lost hours fascinate us, and the insights offered by sleep monitors and fitness trackers give us new ways to think about how well we're resting.
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.
So can connected technology come to the rescue? We've tracked down the very latest in sleep inducing technology - and even tested five sleep tracking devices first hand that promise to make your nights longer, mornings easier and even tackle snoring partners. These are the sleep trackers that made the cut.
The Aura is a complete kit for those who regularly suffer from poor sleep - but it's good even if you just fancy a more gentle 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 preventing bear-with-a-sore-head syndrome.
The visible part of the system is a strange-looking beside 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, emitting a red glow and playing your choice of music or radio station - both of which gradually fade out
Essential reading: Sleep monitors explained - rest longer and feel better
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 wristband versions out there, but then it is a lot more expensive. Still, the Aura's topnotch accuracy (it was number one in our testing) makes it worth checking out. However note that the lamp can be bought with or without the sleep tracking bad - get them together if you want to monitor those Zzzs.
S+ by ResMed
The S+ is a pretty large device that sits on your night stand to track your sleep without ever having to touch you. It uses sonar, and those ultrasonic pulses can see straight through blanket (and PJ's) to monitor the movement of your chest as your breathe your way through the different stages of sleep.
It 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 it on your night stand.
Sense with voice
Sense is a sleep tracker that, rather than strapping to your wrist, clips onto your pillow instead. The Pill unit detects the amount of movement you make during the night and the processing is done by the unit pictured.
It receives the information from the Pill and collates it together with environmental factors for a complete profile of your nightly routing and sources that might be affecting it. We've spent some time with the original sense, which tracked temperature, ambient light and noise, but the new Sense with Voice also keeps an eye on carbon dioxide levels, UV light, volatile organic compounds, barometric pressure and light temperature.
No points for guessing the new model also lets you set alarms and get sleep reports by speaking to it. While the features are great, we were a bit disappointed with the data presented after usage in the first version. Hopefully that's better in the new model.
Beddit Smart 3
Based on something health professionals call ballistocardiography (BCG), the third generation Beddit Smart ultra-thin sensor tucks under your bed sheets and gathers data on sleep quality, duration, heart rate and respiration rate. The Beddit 3 adds automatic sleep tracking that no longer relies on the GPS, but uses pressure sensors to detect when you're in bed.
The sensor itself under the top sheet of your bed and is now 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. The Beddit 3 is also integrated witheClinicalWorks 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 bevy of biosensors on the Jawbone Up3 mean that sleep tracking is one area it should excel. The company claims that by monitoring a user's heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response, it would be able to tell the difference between REM, light and deep sleep in better detail than rival devices.
Among the fitness trackers, Misfit Ray beats out a lot of the competition with its accurate sleep monitoring abilities. Like the Withings Aura, the Ray is fairly accurate even on the wrist.
Features are slim - there's no REM tracking and it doesn't differentiate for moments in the night you randomly wake up, but it's able to tell when you've nodded off pretty much immediately. There are also timed sleep sounds and a smart alarm.
Misfit Shine 2
With virtually all fitness bands already boasting a sleep tracking mode it can be difficult to choose one that does it better than the rest. They all offer very similar motion sensing, REM sleep phase tracking and a host of graphs and tables keeping you informed, but for sheer comfort while you sleep the Misfit Shine 2 is hard to beat.
Impossibly small and light, it can be worn on your wrist, as a pendant or clipped onto your pyjamas and most importantly you won't notice it's there, and with no bulky edges you'll not roll onto it or catch your partner with it. We were also pleased with the accuracy in our review.
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