How are you sleeping these days? Those lost hours fascinate us, but it can be hard to tell just how well you'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.
The insights offered by sleep monitors and fitness trackers are giving us new ways to think about how well we're resting, and offering insights 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 you make your nights longer, mornings easier and even tackle snoring partners. These are the sleep 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 bed 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 just bought the company for an undisclosed sum, hinting that Cupertino is interested in Beddit's sleep tech for its own gadgets, possible even the Apple Watch Series 3.
Read this: The best sleep tracker apps for Apple Watch.
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.
Fitbit Charge 2 / Fitbit Alta HR
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 Charge 2 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 on how to improve your sleep. Plus, you can benchmark your results against people of a similar demographic. What we like about these trackers is that they learn your behavior over time, and will start giving you more and more personalized feedback for getting better rest.
While they don't monitor your external environment (also important for good sleep), it's those actionable insights and good tracking accuracy that earn this Fitbit duo second place on our list. And if you need a lot more detailed metrics on your activity beyond sleep, the Charge 2 is the model you're going to want to go with. It's also got support for connected GPS and Relax guided breathing, which the Alta HR lacks. If you need something a lot more simple and a good deal slimmer, the Alta HR is where you want to be. When it comes to sleep though, both do the same.
The best of the rest
The Aura is 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.
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.
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 (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.
Read our in-depth Withings Aura review for more.
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.
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 synchronizes 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.
Read our full S+ sleep tracker review for more.
Sense with voice
Sense is a sleep tracker that, rather than strapping to your wrist, clips onto your pillow. 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 routine and environment factors that might be affecting it. The original Sense 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 use voice to set alarms and get sleep reports.
To learn more about the original, read our full Sense sleep tracker review.
Withings 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 Withings Steel HR.
In our testing, we found the Steel HR's sleep tracking to be one of its strong suits, accurately detecting our drift-off and wake times. It's also automatic, which scores it some extra points. Sadly the insights aren't quite as meaty as we'd like, but if you're looking something that's good at the basics when it comes to sleep, the Steel HR is a good shout.
Read our full Withings Steel HR review to see how the rest of it shapes up.
Among the fitness trackers, the Misfit Ray is fairly accurate, even on the wrist, although it's certainly not perfect.
Features are slim, but it's good at telling when you've nodded off pretty much immediately – and when you've woken up. There are also timed sleep sounds on the app and a smart alarm that's meant to wake you up during lighter sleep to reduce the chance of feeling groggy.
Read our full Misfit Ray review to see how the fitness tracker shapes up for sleep tracking and other features.
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