Insomnia affects 28% of the world’s adult population. If you’ve ever suffered from a sleep disorder, even temporarily, you understand how vital a restful night’s sleep is.
According to the manufacturers of sleep trackers and sleep tracking apps, their products help you to analyze your sleep patterns so that you can enjoy more restful, deep sleep.
Are they effective? Research seems to indicate that they are. But their effectiveness depends largely on their quality. With so many products available, determining which ones are well-made can be challenging.
We know this from personal experience. We’ve tried many apps and many trackers. Some are a complete waste of time. Others are mediocre. It’s frustrating to invest time and money in a new device (or software) only to find it is ineffective.
Thus, to save you from experiencing the same frustration, we’ve compiled this list of the best sleep trackers. To narrow down the list further, we’ve stuck to wearable trackers and apps, rather than those for your bedside table.
Fitbit is one of the world’s favorite fitness brands. The Fitbit Charge helps you track your sleep and physical activity. It also functions as a watch. It’s not the cheapest Fitbit, but we really like the features it offers.
If you want a versatile device that offers both fitness and sleep tracking, this could be a good fit.
What we like
What we don’t like
This is an excellent option to improve sleep quality. It’s a durable device that provides several metrics in addition to sleep data. It’s competitively-priced, particularly when compared to the rings below. Overall, it’s well-designed and produced by a trusted brand. The problem with sweating is a little annoying, but it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
Fitbit Versa 2
The Best Sleep Tracker Overall
The Versa 2 offers the best combination between a smartwatch and a wellness tracker. It’s pricier than the Fitbit Charge – and has a shorter battery life. However, it only weighs 38 grams. Also, Fitbit (in this model) has worked out the kinks in terms of sweating. Sweat causes no discernable problems with this device.
The watch comes with a tri-wavelength sensor giving it the edge when it comes to detecting sleep apnea. For this reason, we voted it best overall. The price, in comparison to the rings that we reviewed, also tipped the scales in its favor.
What we like
What we don’t like
Overall, this is another winner from Fitbit. It offers excellent value for the money and is extremely accurate. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, this is the best model to buy. Even if you’re a bit tech-phobic, the intuitive design makes this an easy product to use.
Garmin Vivosmart 4
Good for the budget-conscious
Not just a sleep monitor, this device is worn on the wrist and looks like a simple tracker. Don’t be deceived by the simple look; it’s packed with useful features. The streamlined design will fit even a small wrist and without the bulk of your typical smartwatch.
What makes the Viviosmart 4 particularly interesting, is that it measures blood oxygenation levels. This feature is useful if you feel you might have sleep apnea and can be helpful during a workout.
The smart design incorporates breathing exercises to help you relax and drop off to sleep. Overall, for the price you’re paying, it’s a good device to buy.
Why isn’t it at the top of our list? It doesn’t match the Fitbit in terms of performance because the app isn’t quite up to the Fitbit standard. Data lags occasionally mar the experience.
What we like
What we don’t like
Overall, this is a reliable model that comes in at a reasonable price. The Vivosmart 4 would’ve come out on top if the app was better. For the average user, the data lags aren’t a dealbreaker. If you’re going to be using the app a lot, it might be worth looking at one of the Fitbits instead.
Withings Steel HR Sport
Most Like A Traditional Watch
Withings is a traditional watch brand that hasn’t ventured much into the fitness tracking market yet. This model is one of the company’s forays into that market. It’s unusual in that it’s a cross between a traditional chronograph and a smartwatch. It’s comfortable to wear and won’t look out of place in a conservative office environment.
It provides basic stats, but not the level of information that you get from most of the other models on this list. Considering that the price points are similar, this was disappointing. Still, there’s a lot to be said for this watch.
What we like
What we don’t like
We debated on whether or not to include this on our list. For the average user, there are plenty of features. However, this model might be disappointing if you’re accustomed to using something like an Apple Watch. The overall classic look of the watch, however, prompted us to put it on the list.
Xiaomi Mi Band 4
Best Budget Option for Watches
Xiaomi has been producing remarkable products at reasonable prices for several years. The Mi Band 4 is an impressive tracker that comes in at an incredibly low cost. If you’re on a limited budget, this will give you great insight into your sleep score without breaking the bank.
Are you getting everything that you get with the other trackers on this list? No, but at less than a quarter of the price, you can’t expect to. The monitoring functions of this model are more limited than with the others.
It does tell you whether you slept well or deeply, but it doesn’t go into nearly as much detail. It can detect disrupted sleep, for example, but can’t tell you much about your different sleep cycles. On the plus side, it’s easy to use with a simple app.
But what you lose on features, you gain on battery life. With a battery life of 20 days, this budget option obliterates the others on this list.
What we like
Will it be the last tracker you ever buy? Probably not, but it’ll do an excellent job in the meantime.
Best Premium Option
When it comes to measurements, the Oura Ring packs a big punch. There are several metrics that none of the other models offer. You can even monitor your body temperature while you sleep. The streamlined design is appealing too. Oura can pass for a standard ring.
If you’re a gadget freak, you’ll love the Oura. The only reason that we marked it down was the hefty price point.
What we like
What we don’t like
We love everything except the price. The app is really cool and the data you get is outstanding, so keeping track of your sleep actually becomes quite interesting. Having said that, it’s damn expensive.
Best Budget Option for Rings
Sleek and sexy, the Motiv ring costs a bit more than the other watches that we’ve reviewed. It’s hard to argue with design on this one, however. For those who don’t want a hunk of metal on the wrist, it’s ideal – it passes for a stylish wedding band.
What we like
What we don’t like
We like the Motiv ring, but we prefer the Oura. Considering that the price point for both is about the same, we’d rather choose the more feature-rich Oura.
Best Sleep Tracker Apps (iPhone and Android)
If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a tracking device, an app offers an affordable, but less accurate alternative. As long as you have a reasonably good smartphone with a decent microphone, these apps work fairly well.
The downside is that running them drains your phone’s battery, which isn’t a huge deal if it’s plugged in. You also won’t get all the benefits of a traditional fitness tracker. The upside is that you pay a fraction of the price of a dedicated device.
If you’re battling with a temporary bout of insomnia, paying a few dollars a month for an app makes sense.
Here are two of our favorite options. Neither is perfect, but both rate highly in terms of usability and usefulness.
Sleepscore is reasonably-priced, and you can save more by signing up for the annual subscription (sleepscore labs). It’s primarily designed for iPhone 6 and up but works on some Android models too. We recommend trying out the free version to see how well it works on your phone. It’s pretty accurate and gives you actionable tips for improving your sleep.
Sleep Cycle works well on both iOs and Android operating systems. It comes in second to Sleepscore because it doesn’t provide quite as much data. It seems reasonably accurate but doesn’t tell you how long you spent in each sleep stage.
On the upside, you can use the free version for as long as you like. If you need a basic app to help you nod off or wake up, it’s a good choice. Access to the more advanced features, such as being able to track how your habits influence your sleep, is only available on a premium subscription.
Sleep Tracker Buyers Guide
Knowing how to sleep better, starts with understanding how much sleep YOU as an individual need. The best way to do that is by using a wearable sleep tracker or smartphone app.
But where do you start? How much should you spend and what features do you need to worry about?
This buyer’s guide will help you to make a final decision by looking at some important things a sleep tracker should have, like blood oxygen levels, a sleep schedule, breathing rate, sleep diary and overall sleep tracking data that you can analyze each day to find that perfect sweet spot.
How do sleep trackers work?
A sleep tracker may use several forms of technology to monitor your sleep stages, sleep cycles, and sleep duration.
The most basic models monitor how much you move while you’re asleep. More sophisticated models monitor your heart rate and brain waves to more accurately determine what stage of your sleep cycle you’ve entered.
How accurate are sleep trackers?
How accurate these devices are in tracking your sleep depends on the quality of the underlying technology. The cheaper the model, the more inexpensive the underlying technology used. While the most basic models can provide some information, that information is quite limited.
Note: The more basic models monitor your movements during sleep. As you move differently in different stages of sleep, this can be an effective measure. If you’re in a very deep state of rest, for example, you don’t move much.
The issue with these basic devices is that they don’t take your heart rate or brain wave activity into account. While they provide an idea of how you sleep, you don’t get the whole picture.
Newer devices gather data from several different sources. They combine numerous metrics, such as your heart rate and brain activity, to create a more accurate picture overall.
It is difficult to gauge how precise these devices are, even those with the most advanced technology. Generally speaking, even the cheapest models will benefit you if you act on the information that they provide.
An expensive sleep tracker is little more than a fun gadget if you don’t make any lifestyle changes. If you’re genuinely interested in improving your wellness through these devices, they’re a worthwhile investment.
Wearable vs. Non-Wearable
With the technology on the market today, choosing either option will benefit you. You would think that a wearable device would be more accurate, but that’s not always the case.
A high-quality non-wearable can, for example, use radio waves to measure your heart rate and brain activity.
Compared to a low-quality accelerometer that measures any form of movement you make, radio waves provide a more accurate picture of your sleep patterns.
As long as you stick to a reliable brand, either option works. Choose the type that makes you most comfortable. Not everyone wants to wear a watch or ring to bed.
Non-wearables may use a pad that you place on your mattress or use radio waves to gather data. Some of the smartphone apps that we tried asked us to put the phone on the bed at night. For active sleepers or people with partners, having something on the bed isn’t ideal.
Both options have pros and cons, so it’s worth doing a little research into what using a device entails before you make a purchase.
Wearables tend to be more versatile because you can use them during the day as well. A smartwatch, for example, will track your overall activity during the day, your heart rate, and a lot more besides. If you’re an ardent exerciser trying to improve your activity levels, a wearable could work well.
The downside is that the wearables battery must be charged regularly and could die on you during the night. Moreover, you might not find it comfortable to wear them to bed.
Non-wearables are less versatile but have their advantages. They may prove less expensive because they have simple featurexs. They generally don’t require charging, and there’s no device to wear during sleep.
On the downside, if you sleep with a partner, it’s difficult to get accurate readings. Another disadvantage is that power outages can cause the device to die on you during the night.
How To Use And Read A Sleep Tracker
Using a sleep tracker is usually pretty simple, depending on the device you choose. It’s merely a matter of checking the instructions on optimizing usage if you’re using a dedicated tracker. Most people will be able to intuit how to use these devices.
Many of these devices partner with apps on your smartphone to help you understand the data collected.
It’s merely a matter of seeing how long you slept, how much time you spent in each sleep cycle, and checking the improvements that the tracker suggests.
It becomes a little more complicated if you’re using a multi-functional device like an Apple watch. With more features, there’s a lot more to learn. Device manufacturers do, however, provide copious instructions on how to use the specific devices and YouTube videos fill in the rest.
Interpreting the data is usually quite simple. Here are some tips to get you started:
Benefits Of Using A Sleep Tracker
Scientists currently recommend that you get at least 7 hours of sleep a night to promote optimal health. Whether you need more or less depends on your body. You might even need 9 hours a night while your friend functions just fine with just 6 1/2 hours.
Using a sleep tracker helps you determine what your sleep patterns are. It gives you personalized information that can help you to optimize your sleep cycles.
The information can help you identify factors that you might not have suspected of having an influence. Too much cardio before bedtime, for example, can keep you alert. Likewise, different foods have a disparate impact on how people sleep.
With a suitable sleep tracking device, you’re able to identify what factors influence your sleep. You can then make appropriate changes for improvement.
Devices with smart alarms can take things one step further and wake you at the optimal time. With such devices, you set the latest time that you want to wake up.
Most important: The device monitors your sleep patterns during the night to determine when you’ve completed a full sleep cycle.
When you’re nearing your set wakeup time, the device will wake you before you enter the next cycle. It sounds counter-intuitive, but getting a little less sleep prevents grogginess because it prevents you from waking during a deep sleep stage.
How Sleep Tracking Works
You’ve probably heard the buzz words activity tracking, movement tracking or even sleep analysis. But what do they actually mean and why are they important?
Let me explain:
Conclusion: Are sleep trackers worth it?
From a psychological aspect, they may help put your fears about not getting enough sleep to rest.
We generally tend to underestimate the amount of sleep that we get by a lot. You might, for example, think that you lay awake for hours, when, in reality, you’ve drifted into and out of a light sleep stage or experienced REM sleep.
So, using these tools can ease the anxiety associated with not getting enough sleep. Reducing stress, in turn, makes it easier to sleep the next night. So you could look at it as a placebo effect.
Physically, some devices contain features that make it easier to fall asleep like calming music. Devices lacking such features are still useful because they identify factors that make getting a good night’s sleep more difficult.
Sleep apnea, for one, is difficult to diagnose without the use of technology because the patient doesn’t remember waking during the night.
Is it worth buying a sleeping tracker or using an app?
A good sleep tracker should help you improve your sleep. A cheaper device will provide some benefits, but it’s worth spending a little more to get better results.
If possible, it makes sense to get a device that monitors your heart rate and brainwave activity. You’ll have a better chance of saying good night to insomnia with such devices.
As with any health monitoring tool, however, the effectiveness depends on the changes that you make yourself. There’s little point in having all this information available if you don’t act on the data.