Whether you’re sleeping, dozing or snoring, a good night’s sleep is vital to your health and happiness. The best sleep trackers can help you by breaking down sleep data with metrics and tracking features like heart rate variability, putting you back in control for a good night’s sleep.
The ubiquity of gadgets like wearables means that millions of us already own a sleep tracker, capable of calculating all sorts of metrics, but not all are created equal. It’s also worth remembering that not everyone wants to wear tech to bed, so we’ve rounded up the best alternatives that can track your sleep under the mattress. But first, here’s what to look for…
What is the best sleep tracker?
- Best overall sleep tracker: Fitbit Sense (£189)
Offering a lot for your money, the Sense is a superb standalone smartwatch that also packs a robust set of sleep tracking features. These include heart rate and temperature monitoring, sleep quality metrics, and even automatic snoring detection that could be used to identify disturbances throughout the night.
- Best minimal sleep tracker: Oura Gen 3 ($299)
Crafted from lightweight titanium, the Oura is a cleverly designed smart band that’s capable of measuring your heart rate and sleep quality, in addition to activity and fitness tracking. An ideal choice for people who prefer not to strap obvious tech items to their wrist and/or head.
- Best Mattress Sleep Tracker: Withings Sleep Analyzer (£119)
Rather wear nothing at all? The Withings underbed tracker is for you. Developed with sleep doctors, it is able to track your sleep cycles to provide a sleep score, as well as the ability to detect snoring and sleep apnea.
What features should I look for in a sleep tracker?
Less sophisticated fitness trackers have tended to use wrist movement to monitor sleep – stop the snickering behind your back – but now the vast majority use your heart rate instead to calculate when you fall asleep, the type of how much sleep you have and how long you stay asleep. This is the most important sensor in any sleep tracker.
But how long you sleep doesn’t always determine quality, so many factors are used to build an accurate picture of your sleep, including temperature, breathing conditions, body movement via accelerometers, and even noise. ambient. Brands like Whoop, Fitbit and Apple also use blood oxygen data that can help identify sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition where breathing stops and starts again while you sleep.
How that data is then used makes a big difference, with some apps offering in-depth analytics as well as a sleep score that, like hitting your 10,000 steps, helps gamify good sleep. We’re also big fans of sleep-based alarms, which wake the wearer at the optimal time in their sleep cycle, to help get you started each day.
The best sleep trackers can also help if you’re having trouble falling asleep, with headphones available to block out distractions and ease a chaotic mind. Non-wearable smart mattresses can even adjust your body temperature based on your sleep history to give you the best chance of a good night’s rest and quality sleep.
What does a good night’s sleep really look like?
Your sleep time can be broken down into a cycle consisting of light, deep, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and in order for you to feel fully rested, you need to cycle through these stages at least a few times a night. Your sleep tracker app will break down these stages for you and make it easy to identify problem areas to help you achieve a world of better sleep.
During a typical night, you go through these stages of sleep…
Step 1: Hopefully lasting only a few minutes, the first stage of sleep is light and easy to wake up.
2nd step : Your brain waves, eye movements, and heart rate begin to slow.
Steps 3 and 4: You enter a deeper sleep from which it is harder to wake up. This is when your body grows and repairs itself and boosts immune function. For healthy adults, 15-20% of your sleep should be deep sleep.
REM: The final stage is where dreams occur, as your brain processes and stores long-term memories. Our eyes are closed but dart rapidly from side to side, and our limbs can become paralyzed to prevent us from achieving our dreams. 20-25% of our sleep should be REM sleep.
The sleep cycle repeats every 90 to 110 minutes and as sleep progresses, REM cycles increase in length.