Whether you want to excel at work, school, during exercise, or improve your mental and physical health, the ability to perform at a high level directly correlates with how well you’re sleeping. It’s science.
Considering it is the activity we indulge in more than any other, why wouldn’t we track sleep as religiously as steps, distance, reps, nutrition and all that other stuff we constantly keep tabs on?
Especially when, for most folks, it’s the simplest part of the equation. You don’t have to go out in the cold, and you definitely don’t have to lift anything.
Thankfully, there are a slew of gadgets able to measure the time you spend asleep, the quality of that time, the suitability of your sleep environment and many more powerful and insightful metrics.
Most top fitness trackers monitor movement and heart rate during sleep, while a growing range of non-wearables sit above or below your mattress and even on your bedside table. These help you track your breathing, snoring, temperature and allow you to follow those trends over time.
Leading the way are traditional wearable providers like Polar, Nokia/Withings and Fitbit, who have all added powerful sleep tracking to their devices, while there’s also an abundance of excellent non-contact options from sleep specialists ResMed, Beddit and Emfit.
Here are six of the best sleep trackers we’ve tested.
Note: we've ranked these from cheapest to most expensive according to prices at time of writing.
1. Nokia Steel
Long-lasting sleep tracker with bundles of style
Since Nokia bought the health and wellness tech firm Withings, the product line-up has been revamped.
The dedicated Aura Sleep System (a cross between the ResMed and Beddit systems) may have been sacrificed, but the Nokia Steel watch is picking up the slack.
This analog watch is perfect for minimalists who want access to reams of insightful data without an additional screen bombarding them with endless smartphone notifications. You get the time, and a 0-100% dial for your daily activity. All other insights, including sleep, are synced back to the Nokia Health Mate app.
The major advantage of this approach is the 8-month battery life (slightly tempered by the need to replace rather than recharge).
In our experience of fitness trackers, all it can take is one missed recharge to get you out of the habit of wearing.
There’s automatic sleep tracking with detailed insights into sleep cycles, time awake and sleep duration.
The app tells you when you went to bed and how long it took you to fall asleep. The watch’s silent alarm will also wake you gently at the optimum point of your sleep cycle.
2. Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor
Non-contact tracker is perfect for naked sleepers
Beddit is an unobtrusive sleep monitor that sits on top of your mattress, beneath the sheets. You don’t have to wear anything, you don’t have to meddle with an app; all you need to do is focus on sleeping.
In the morning, the powerful app delivers you a detailed breakdown of the quality and quantity of sleep, heart rate data and breaths per minute. If the well-placed kicks from your partner don’t do it, Beddit tells you if you’ve been snoring, which is a serious contributor to poor sleep.
The Beddit app also offers feedback on the temperature and humidity in bed, helping you to optimize the sleep environment. All of the information is displayed in easy-to-read graphs, making it ideal for analyzing trends over time.
Although it’s designed to track the movements of only one person, we found the data wasn’t skewed by presence of a sleeping partner. Despite the lack of direct contact with the body it also produces surprisingly accurate data in line with the fitness trackers we were wearing during use.
Apple purchased Beddit earlier in 2017. The company often shuts down products from firms it acquires, but it kept Beddit around. That has to be a good sign, right?
3. S+ by ResMed
Deep sleep metrics that keep your body free of tech
However unobtrusive they feel during the day, wearing a fitness band at night is often uncomfortable. Some dig into your skin or get twisted and clammy, which actually ends up impeding sleep.
ResMed takes a different approach with a non-contact sleep monitor. Despite sitting on the bedside table, it claims it can accurately monitor breathing, heart rate, movement and overall sleep quality.
This is all while keeping tabs on noise, light and temperature levels to deliver feedback on how you can improve your environment.
The powerful companion app guides you through breathing exercises to help you nod off and plays sounds that match the cadence of your breathing. The app even encourages you to clear your head by jotting down tomorrow’s to-do list.
The resulting sleep score, which is based upon age and gender, also offers feedback and suggestions on how you can improve.
This is where ResMed’s years in the field really pays off compared to general fitness trackers. For example, it’ll tell you to try sleeping on your left side if stomach problems or heartburn is a factor, which is something you won't get from other trackers in this list.
4. Polar M430
Built-in smarts for sleep-obsessed runners
The Polar Sleep Plus system uses the watch’s accelerometer to deliver highly insightful feedback, and itt gives you actual sleep time (not just the time spent in bed), tracks your interruptions and delivers data on continuous sleep periods.
You can even rate your sleep and measure it over time against workouts and changes to your training schedule.
All of the insights provided are laid out clearly within the Polar companion app, enabling you to track sleep quality over time, and it fuses well with the rest of your active day, which can become rather addictive (in a good way).
5. Emfit QS HRV Sleep Monitor
The deepest insights for serious athletes
The Emfit QS is so subtle that it hides under your mattress. The no-contact solution is primarily designed for athletes and uses the rapidly emerging metric of heart rate variability (HRV) to determine sleep-based recovery.
HRV is based upon the time between your individual heartbeats while resting. Research suggests the higher the HRV, the better your body has recovered from strain and the more equipped athletes are to perform at a high level the next day without risking injury.
The way Emfit’s approach differs dramatically from all of the other sleep trackers we’ve listed is the ability to see the scale of your body’s recovery throughout the night. You get a score when you get into bed and another in the morning.
If your score is high the next day, your body is ready to attack the day. If it’s low, you probably shouldn’t push yourself too hard.
Beyond HRV, the QS (QS stands for Quantified Sleep) goes seriously deep into sleep stats. It also tracks sleep stages (Light, Deep, REM), movement and breathing rates over the course of 360 days.
If you’ve targeted better sleep as the key to unlocking your performance potential in 2018, this could be the sleep tracker for you.
6. Fitbit Ionic
A smartwatch that doesn’t need to rest overnight
Smartwatches aren’t renowned for their sleep tracking abilities, mainly because they have to recharge their batteries at the same time we do. However, while the Apple Watch must be replenished overnight (still, three generations in…), the Fitbit Ionic can last for four days (and more importantly, nights) or more.
Thanks to the continuous heart rate tracking and sensitive motion trackers, the in-app insights include a detailed breakdown of Sleep Stages (Light, Deep and REM) and personalized feedback.
With one of the largest user bases in the world, Fitbit is also able to tell you how you performed in the bedroom compared to others in your age group and gender. We’re talking about sleep here, obviously. Anything else would be weird.
Research shows that consistent bedtimes lead to better sleep, but we find getting to bed at the same time every night to be nigh-on impossible. The Fitbit app attempts to help by creating a personalized sleep schedule based on your goals. It also sends a friendly reminder when it’s time to turn off the telly and get to bed.
It’s also notable that, with more time and research into user’s sleep data, the Ionic will be able to diagnose sleep apnea (a condition affecting an estimated 25 million people in the US alone and can lead to severe health problems) in wearers of its sleep trackers.