For most people, 24 hours is not enough to finish all the necessary stuff, and most of them sacrifice their sleep time to do it. The problem is obvious: people work a lot and sleep little. How can we improve the quality of our sleep given that we can’t increase its time? It turns out that it’s possible (and even necessary) to work on the quality of sleep. Sleep trackers are most handy for this task.
We have studied mobile apps, sleep tracker systems and fitness bands built-in trackers. Before actually reviewing the gadgets, let’s find out how high-tech gadgets can help fight insomnia and ease early awakening?
What do sleep trackers track and how can they help you sleep better?
Sleep trackers can teach us wake up and go to bed on time, they help fight snoring and morning “crumpled look.” Some of them even track the influence of the environment on their sleeping owner.
The main advantage of these trackers is that they give you an opportunity to constantly analyze the quality of your sleep since we don’t just simply lie with our eyes closed, and our brain shut off. There is a deep sleep stage and an active one. As for the deep sleep, whenever a person is really “shut down,” both our body and our brain have some rest. Active sleep is less useful as we toss and turn, wake up all the time and have almost no rest.
A good fitness tracker provides a report each morning and indicates how many hours of quality sleep you had and how many hours were wasted. The most tuned models may even point out the reason for your sleep issues, and you only have to get rid of the factors which disturb your deep sleep, such as your regular glass of beer in the evening, late working in front of the computer, your neighbours making noise….
Dr.Anatom of our team shares his experience with us: “At one moment it was with the help of Jawbone UP sleep tracker that I realized that I need to limit my alcohol consumption. It showed terrible deep sleep statistics after every party, and I felt really broken the morning after. Now I don’t drink more than 3 bottles of beer, and my sleep has improved drastically”.
Sleep trackers tell deep sleep and active sleep apart
The sound sensor is the most primitive function for this. Tiny supersensitive sound recorders record all of your snoring, grunting and tosses, and turns. If you make much noise, that means you’re in the active stage.
Accelerometers and heart rate monitors are more reliable. The former may even be fixed on the wrist of their owner or may be put on your pillow as they would track even the slightest movements of a person. The more you move around, the worse you sleep. Everything about heart rate is also clear: usually they are a complement to an altimeter or a sound monitor and make their statistics more accurate. These sensors track an increase in the heart rate which is a symptom of leaving the deep sleep stage.
Sleep trackers also record the symptoms of poor sleep, such as snoring and nocturnal delirium. Here audio records come handy once again: sound sensor “record” all the time you sleep and transmit the audio files to your smartphone. A special app analyzes these data and classifies your snoring, delirium, and even sleepwalking. A nice bonus is that in the morning you can listen to all of your night songs. Of course, the trackers won’t cure your respiration or nerves problems, but it is them that will let you know that it’s high time to consult your physician or neurologist.
A smart alarm clock is another unique function borne by the sleep trackers. You have noticed that some days you wake up easily, and in other days a cannon fire won’t awaken you, haven’t you? The reason for this mess is the same old sleep stages. If you hear your alarm clock while you’re in the deep sleep stage, you will hardly be able to get up on the count of three. ACTIVE sleep is a whole another story though! At that moment, your body is ready to get up, and that’s why you wake up full of energy – and smart alarm clocks track this very moment. However, you can’t really set a certain time for waking up as the alarm clock needs to be set for a half-an-hour long range in which you have to be up!
The most tuned sleep trackers not only analyze the quality of your sleep, but the conditions in which you were asleep as well. Even nowadays the gadgets equipped with the room temperature detectors, detectors of dust or percentage of oxygen or carbon dioxide in the air. Do you know a simple rule that states that you wake up twice as quickly if you leave the window open? It is indeed true as some of the external factors may cause nightmares literally and figurately.
Now that we have discussed the use of sleep trackers, it’s time to move on to review the most popular devices which are equipped with these functions.
3 most popular Sleep Tracker Apps
Mobile apps developers proved that any smartphone might be turned into a simple sleep tracker a long time ago. Today Apple Store and Android Market offer about 50 such apps, and all of them are not free, and they use some accelerometers built into the smartphone.
The way the work is the same for all of them. You have to place the smartphone with the installed app on the pillow right near the head of the sleeping person. The built-in movement sensor will analyze their movements during the night and tell apart the deep sleep stage from the ACTIVE sleep.
This system has three drawbacks, though. First of all, the sensors of all three apps go nuts if there is a second person or a cat in the bed. Second of all, you’ll have to keep your phone plugged into the charger, otherwise in the morning you’ll only have 80-40% of battery life left. Third… there is still electromagnetism! There’s a doubtable amount of pleasure to keep your smartphone right next to your head all night along if you live in the world of hi-tech devices!
But what is the profit we get if we do agree to the radiation, a dead battery of your smartphone and if you tell your wife to sleep on the couch? The users of said apps prioritize the smart alarm clock, which works well for all of the “Big 3” apps. But what is there to delight the customers?
Runtastic Sleep Better analyzes the impact of alcohol, coffee and training on the quality of your sleep. Every single day it asks its owner about the daily activities of their Majesty and is looking for a correlation between the owner’s lifestyle and stage of sleep during several weeks. It also keeps track of lunar phases and warns when it’s better to go to bed earlier or later. Moreover, this is the first app which has its own dreams diary. This is a nice perk for those who get sad when they can’t recall in the evening their dreams of the day before! The app has a trial and premium version, and its average rating online is 4.0.
Sleep As Android has only the same user rating of 4.0 though its developers have stuck many more creative ideas into it. The way of turning off the alarm clock is also interesting, as it the laziest and sleepiest users would have to solve a math problem, count the sheep with the sensor or take a picture of the QR code which is supposed to be hung as far away from the bed as possible in order to turn the alarm clock off! The app also has a lullaby mode, when it’s possible to plug in the earphones and listen to the sounds of nature until you fall asleep. Sleep As Android also gives you an opportunity to share your sleep reports on social media, it tracks your snoring pattern and is compatible with the Pebble Watch Smart Watch.
Sleep Cycle is another like app. It costs much less than its rivals, its price is only a dollar – hence the highest rating (4.5 stars on Google Play). In addition to the smart alarm clock and sleep analyzer an option of recording the “nocturnal sounds” is also found here. This feature helps distinguish the snoring from your cat’s purring, and the sound of the truck passing by outside from the door bell ringing. What else can Sleep Cycle do? All the same things that its competitors can… it keeps a diary of your dreams, evaluates the impact of coffee and your ration on your sleep… Unlike RUntastic, though, it doesn’t track the lunar phases.
Here they are - the mobile trackers. They are accessible, cheap, usable, but their possibilities are much more modest than those of the professional gadgets.
Fitness bands with the built-in sleep trackers
Fitness trackers have several following advantages over the mobile apps:
1. The location of the sensor on your arm ensures the accuracy of the accelerometer. Unlike the smartphone, which needs to be put on the pillow, the fitness band won’t get dropped on the floor, won’t count extra movements and may track even the slightest movements of your body.
2. The smart alarm clocks are more popular with the customers for the lack of the sound signal. Most of the fitness bands wake their owners up by vibrating slightly. This is guaranteed not to disturb your bed-mate (in contrast to the roaring mobile alarm).
3. Unlike the smartphones, many fitness bands can track your pulse and body temperature, which are also included in the “nightly report.”
So, the advantages of these gadgets are obvious. Let’s move on to a brief review of particular models and find out which ones monitor your sleep better. But, first of all, let’s decide on today’s price range which would be between $15 and $100. We shall begin our comparison with the most cut-rate nocturnal model, Xiaomi mi Band.
Xiaomi mi Band smart bracelet
This is a regular fitness tracker which is very popular with the customers. Its average rating is 4 stars. It doesn’t possess any state-of-the-art features, such as a heart rate monitor or something extraordinary: it simply assesses your activity, keeps track of the calories consumption, monitors the sleep and gives some advice on healthy lifestyle. But it does cost much less than its rivals (from $13.32), hence the popularity. As for the benefits in which we are interested, there are long battery life (up to 720 hours which is equal to charging once a month), comfortable band adjustment and being waterproof (it is thus possible to use it as a swimming tracker).
The users observe the following drawbacks of this model: the step counter is inaccurate, poor choice of the actual bands, volume of the gadget. We are nevertheless interested primarily in the monitoring of sleep. What kind of feedback is there on this matter?
Some of the Amazon customers note that after 10 pm any lack of activity is automatically detected as sleep. Even if you are in front of your PC playing games, your tracker will identify this as being asleep.
The smart alarm is in general not criticized despite the fact that several users find it inconvenient that their fitness band wakes them up earlier than they’re used to. Most of the customers accept that it’s much easier to wake up each morning and that they feel much better with Xiaomi mi band.
Jawbone UP is a true best seller. Jawbone devices are well-known as the best sleep analyzers. One of its advantages is its price (which starts at $59.99) and the fact that, judging by the feedback, this is an example of Android sleep tracker. The total consumer rating of this gadget on Amazon is not high, though, it is only 3.0.
All of the users’ remarks though have something to do with the sleep monitoring. They reveal that the breakdowns occur often, that the battery and impermeability are poor. As for the sleep tracker and the smart alarm clock, they are, on the contrary, much praised. Almost half of the reviews state that the sleep tracker is the main advantage of the device. The only complaint on the subject had to do with the fact that the gadget does not always catch the actual moment of falling asleep. However, in this case, it is always possible to note the approximate time of falling asleep in the morning. As you remember, Dr. Anatom was also very much satisfied with the sleep tracker of this device.
Amazon customers stress that Jawbone Up taught them to wake up properly, at the same time and made them more energetic (even if we talk early awakening at the weekend). The user Martin, for example, states in his review that he wakes up every morning at 6:45 fresh and active only because of this fitness tracker. You’ll find more Jawbone UP reviews on Amazon.com.
Essential reading: Jawbone UP3 vs. Fitbit Surge vs. Basis Peak
Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity and Sleep Wristband
We began with the tracker at the most competitive price, and we shall end our review with the most expensive sleep tracker. This is the most popular fitness band on Amazon - Fitbit Flex for $79.99 at a discount. It has become a best seller mainly because of a wide variety of useful features, including sleep tracking. The users state that it is convenient to use, and you only have to tap the wristband a couple of times in order to hibernate. Others complain though that this manual switch to another mode is extremely inconvenient for them, as they are in a hurry in the morning and they simply forget to switch the Fitbit sleep tracker mode to “awake.”
By the way, Fitbit Flex can tell apart the sleep and awake periods at night time easily, by the movement of the wrist on which the band is worn. Thus, if you are not very active during the sleep, the results are also more accurate. In any case Flex will track your turns and tosses at night, and will report them to you in the morning.
Silent alarm which wakes you with a pleasant vibe on your wrist is an essential advantage as you don’t have to wake up to a loud song of the alarm on the smartphone, when you have Flex on your wrist. In order to learn more about this sleep tracker, you may read over the 13,000 customers' reviews on Amazon.com
Let us help you choose: Fitbit fitness trackers comparison
Summarizing, we’ll say that in order to purchase a good fitness tracker with the sleep analysis and smart alarm clock feature, you don’t have to spend lots of money. There are enough reasonably priced models on the market which successfully monitor not only your physical activities and diet, but also your sleep.
Multifunctional sleep systems
Here’s a pure sleep analyzer: –
Withings Aura Smart Sleep System
This is a whole system near your bed which costs $299.95 and which is aimed at improving the quality of your sleep. It consists of a music lamp, sensor pad, which is hidden under the mattress, and a software module. The device tracks your activity and relates it to the external factors which may affect your sleep, such as the lighting in the room, the noise and even the quality of the air. It also prepares you for sleep and for the awakening. In the evening, the room is lit with pleasant orange (imitating dusk) and various lullabies are played. In the morning, blue lights are on, and their reflections are on your face. Apparently, this influences the production of the hormone melatonin, responsible for a series of "sleep-wake" patterns.
Aura analyzer distinguishes between three (not two!) sleep phases: apart from the deep and active sleep stages, there is also a REM stage (rapid eye movement), during which we see dreams. There is also a smart alarm clock, which wakes its owner up to the nature sounds rather than vibration. This isn’t the smartest idea since many would rather fall asleep than wake up to these sounds. However, any track downloaded online may be used as an alarm.
Let me say a few words about the sensors of Aura. This sleep tracker tracks the body movements, respiratory cycles and may even record your heart rhythm with the help of a mattress. Add the statistics of the external sensors to this, which include monitoring of the lighting of the space, temperature monitoring, and a nocturnal sound recorder.
Nevertheless, Amazon democratically rates the gadget at 3. The consumers complain that the gadget demands terrible and difficult adjustment. You do voodoo tricks in order to make it work, you’ve been setting it to the sleep mode for the last 30 minutes, and it offers you functionality which is slightly larger than that of regular fitness trackers. Its relaxation feature is doubtable, and monitors are found in cheaper gadgets. All in all, read the Amazon feedback on your own and decide whether you need.
This is another example of a specialized sleep system. It is still a project, but it has already raised $2 million on Kickstarter. This tiny sensor is fixed to your pillow with the help of a clip, and it tracks the activity of a person during their sleep (tosses and turns, talking in their sleep and things like that). There is a 6-axis gyro which records the slightest movements of its owner.
«Sense» tracks external stimuli, such as humidity, air temperature, and the presence of the dust in the atmosphere, room lighting and the level of foreign noise. We were most impressed by the dust detector. The manufacturers claim that this detector can identify both small and large particles of dust. The system can also detect whether there is any airborne pollen and report the results to its users. Overall, this is the most advanced gadget today in terms of the built-in sensors.
Another cool feature made by the developers is that the sleep is rated out of 100. There are also instructions for the rating which specify what needs to be changed to improve the utility of the sleep. The price of the item is also attractive: you can pre-order at $129. However, since Sense-Sleep Pill is not sold yet, all of your compliments to this device are strictly theoretical.
Summarizing! Far from all of the sleep trackers justify their price. Mobile apps give a fair return on the investment of $1-1.5, but their functionality is minimal. Fitness trackers give a bigger return on their price; that’s why the users trust the most such gadgets as Fitbit Flex.
In general, this is a very popular course nowadays, that’s why all kinds of things are sold. We would like to bring to your attention some other interesting devices:
1. Sleep Shepherd hat ($149.99) was invented for those who have trouble sleeping. The manufacturers promise that the device will help you slow your brainwaves down so you can relax and sleep. The users note that at first they were skeptical about this, but Sleep Shepherd hat really helped them fall asleep.
2. If you don’t want to wear that on your head, there is a lulling band DREAMATE SLEEP AID for $54,94. It relaxes your muscles and helps you fall asleep faster, especially if you put it on 30 minutes before bedtime… This is tested by the Dreamate Sleep Aid users.
3. NightWave Sleep Assistant, a small device which normalizes your respiration with the help of the soft light and calms you down, is worth $50.33.
4. For those who take sleep really seriously, there is Zeo Personal Sleep Manager for $549.99. This system is supposed to report your sleep patterns and give recommendations regarding what needs to be done to improve the quality of your sleep and which negative factors worsen it.
If you still can’t decide which sleep tracker you need, read Amazon customers reviews.