Almost everybody is trying their best to lead the healthiest life possible. What most people don’t realize is that sleeping well is as important as eating healthy food and exercising. The lack of sleep can lead to various health problems. It increases your chance of illness, heart-related diseases; it affects your mood, sex drive, and overall health. It can even impact your memory! People who sleep less also crave for junk food and sugar, so that affects health as well.
People who came to this realization have been paying particular attention to sleeping well. That’s why sleep trackers have been such a huge trend these last few years. They are great if you want to find out more about your nightly slumber. If you are struggling with your sleeping patterns, or you want to learn more about your shut-eye, getting a sleep tracker may be a good option for you.
Sleep trackers can monitor your nocturnal movement, heart, and breathing rate, and some of them can even record snoring. They can measure the total time you spent asleep, if you had any interruptions, how many times you have woken up during the night, how long it took you to fall asleep, and even track the different stages of sleep.
Sleep trackers collect all this data and then give you detailed analytics and graphs about all of these things. What’s great is that most of them have coaching tips for better sleep, so not only you will learn about your sleeping habits, but you’ll also get useful advice on how to improve these habits.
They can also monitor ambient noise, light, and temperature, all of which play a significant role in helping you fall asleep faster.
Continue reading to learn more about different types of sleep trackers, how they work, and how to pick the best one for you. We have also selected, tested and reviewed some of the best sleep trackers on the market for you.
Wearable vs. Non-Wearable
There are two types of sleep trackers – the wearable ones and the ones that are contactless. If you choose the wearable option, you can pick between sleep tracker rings and bracelets. They are great for active people because not only they give you information about your sleep, but they also have great fitness trackers that can count the steps you make, your calorie intake and consumption, and other things that can improve your health.
Contactless sleep trackers usually consist of tracks of fabrics embedded with movement sensors and a small processor that collects the data. They are specially designed for tracking your sleep, so you don’t get all the other fitness perks of a wearable sleep tracker. Because of that, they come at a lower price, so you can save a few dollars by buying the non-wearable option.
Both wearable and contactless models connect to a sleep tracker app that gives you all kind of information about your sleep. Sleep tracking apps can do all sorts of things, depending on the app, but generally, they can track the total time you were asleep during the night, how many times you’ve woken up, and some can even monitor your heart rate, breathing rate and snoring. What’s amazing is that they can also figure out how much time you’ve spent in different stages of sleep, so they can tell you when you were in the light, deep and even in the REM stage. Most of them also have a smart alarm option, and they can calculate when you are in the light stages of sleep and wake you up. That is very important because waking up in the deep stages of sleep can make you feel groggy, disoriented and more likely to hit that snooze button a few times. And it’s so easy to use this option; if you need to wake up at 6 am, you just put in the desired timeframe when you want to wake up, e.g., 5.30 am to 6 am, and the app calculates when you enter the light stages of sleep during that time frame and wakes you up (for example at 5.47 am). Standard alarms can often be too loud and can make your awakening the worst part of your day, but that isn’t the case with these alarms. They tend to rely on vibrations and soft melodies, so waking up is going to be a much more pleasant experience.
How do They Work?
Wearable sleep trackers rely on measuring tools called actigraphy. The principle behind this is pretty simple; a device called accelerometer measures movement, and the lack of movement corresponds with sleep time. It also measures heart rate and combines those two parameters to see if you are really sleeping or just resting in your bed.
Non-wearable models are a bit different, but with the same idea. They operate on infrared technology and strips of materials with sensors under or on top of your mattress, and then they measure movement, heart rate, as well as other things and describe your sleeping patterns. They can also measure respiration, which is an excellent indicator of sleep quality as well.
The logic behind this idea is pretty solid, but the main question is how well sleep trackers work and how accurate they are.
How Accurate are Sleep Trackers?
It is crucial to know how accurate sleep trackers are. If they are just some fancy gadgets with no real accuracy, they won’t be of much use.
Scientists have done their part and did some research on wrist actigraphy, and how effective it is. The results are pretty promising.
A study done in 2011, by Martin and Hakim shed some light on how accurate wrist actigraphy is. They looked at how this technique compares to sleep diaries, clinical interviews, laboratory polysomnography and other methods the doctors use to grade sleep quality. They concluded that this method is good at obtaining information about sleep in natural surroundings, rather than the laboratory. They also found that it can pretty accurately give information about the total sleep time, sleep percentage and how long after sleep the waking occurs.
Another study done in 2013, by Marino and a group of researchers tried to determine how good the actigraphy is compared to polysomnography. Polysomnography is a technique used by doctors to assess the quality of sleep and detect sleep disorders. It is done in a laboratory, and the patients are carefully examined and observed for a number of nights, while machines measure different things including heart rate, breathing rate, and brain waves. Polysomnography is considered a gold standard when it comes to sleep, but it has its problems. It’s done in the lab surroundings, and it’s invasive, so it’s kind of hard to imagine you can sleep naturally with needles stuck in your skin.
The study reported very similar results to a 2011 research, and they conclude that the actigraphy can be very useful in determining the sleep time and wakefulness after sleep.
Even though scientists agree that actigraphy can accurately detect when people are asleep, they are a bit more skeptical whether they can determine the time spent in individual stages of sleep.
Although the commercially available wearable sleep trackers still need to go through rigorous testing, we can see that the science behind them works and that they can be beneficial. Contactless ones haven’t been put to such a degree of research, but the manufacturers are claiming that their accuracy is very high. They go as far as saying that those are the best sleep trackers available on the market.
Customer reviews also give us some insight into how well they work. Most common complaints about sleep trackers are that they sometimes can’t distinguish laying still and sleeping. People with insomnia would often lay motionless, and trackers could mistake it for being asleep. Sometimes, they can even think that you are sleeping while you’re in bed, reading a book or watching a show. However, the new models are pretty advanced, and those mistakes are not frequent.
How to Pick the Best Sleep Tracker that Fits Your Needs?
There are just so many sleep trackers on the market, so how to decide which one is the best for you? Even though the principle behind them is the same; there are still many differences between them. You need to look at several things if you want to pick the perfect one for yourself. Here are some things that you should keep in mind before buying a sleep tracker:
- The first thing that you need to consider is whether you want a wearable or a contactless model. If you are easily irritated by wearing something on your wrist, maybe you should consider getting the contactless one. Wearable trackers are not an ideal solution for people who don’t like to wear jewelry. If you are one of them, it is the best idea to get the non-wearable model. The manufacturers always try to use the best and most comfortable materials possible, but even the most comfortable materials can irritate this group of people after some time.
- Wearable sleep trackers are so much more than just that. They are fitness trackers as well, so they are the best choice for active people. They can give you great insight into how much you exercise, how well you eat and how all of that corresponds with your sleep. They are amazing if you want to know more about your overall health, besides the sleep part.
- Non-wearable trackers can only track you while you are in bed, and they usually need to be plugged into a wall. Also, some of them need to be turned on every night before you go to bed, which can be a minor inconvenience, especially for those who don’t want to have to remember this every night. If you are forgetful, you should avoid trackers that need to be set every night.
- What is your budget? The price can vary depending on the features and the design, and it can range from $50 to $300. Usually, the amount of money corresponds to the number of functions you are getting, but that’s not always the case. So be sure to check what are you getting for your money.
- Check the app! The interface of the app is something you want to look at, as you’ll be looking at it every day. There’ll be graphs, analytics, sleep tips, and reminders. Check for manufacturers videos, take a look at app store screenshots, and decide which one suits you best.
- If you want a wearable tracker, check out what size and color you want. It’s something you’ll wear every day so make sure it suits your style.
- See if you are getting a warranty with your sleep tracker, as most of them come with a warranty for one or two years.
- Lastly, check the reviews as they can help you make the right decision!
If you still can’t decide for yourself, let us show you some of our favorites. We have tested and reviewed some of the best sleep trackers available on the market. Here are our top picks in both wearable and non-wearable category.
Our Choice of Top Sleep Trackers
Best Wearable Sleep Trackers
Withings Steel HR Hybrid Smartwatch
- 24/7 heart rate and sleep tracking
- Beautiful design
- 25-day battery life
- Water resistant
Withings Steel HR Hybrid is one of the best looking sleep trackers out there. A smooth leather band, durable stainless steel case and the variety of colors can make anyone fall in love with this watch on the first sight. If you like beautiful designs, you should consider this smartwatch. The most off-putting thing about smartwatches is their size, but this model is only 40 mm in diameter and 13 mm thick, so it is a good fit for both men and women. Don’t worry about having to sacrifice functionality for looks; this one has it all.
It has a 24-hour heart monitor and advanced sleep tracking options that show you how long it took you to fall asleep, how good your sleep was and if you had any interruptions during the night. It can also tell you about light, deep and REM stages of sleep, and the overall quality of shut-eye. Every morning, the “Health Mate” app will examine all of these things, and give you a score of your sleep quality.
The watch contains more than 30 types of workouts and activities, so it’s great for people who are into fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle. It can assess your fitness level based on maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) during your workouts. The higher this level is, the more fit you are. If you love a long battery life, this watch is for you, as a 25-day lasting battery will make you forget everything about charging. Also, it only takes two hours to charge it to a hundred percent. A beautiful black and white screen provides slower battery draining. It also comes with a GPS and is water resistant, so all you nature lovers can take it everywhere with you, even for a swim. You can receive texts, incoming calls, calendar notifications, and it can also support more than 100 apps.
The Withings Steel HR Hybrid Smartwatch comes at a price of $200 and with a 1-year warranty. It’s perfect for runners, athletes, occasional gym-goers, and people who like to learn more about their sleep patterns.
- Those looking for advanced sleep data
- Runners and occasional gym-goers
- People who want their sleep tracker to be stylish
- Outdoorsy types in need of GPS
Fitbit Versa Smart Watch
- 4-day battery life
- Heart rate tracker
- Can store up to 300 songs
- Very stimulative to stick with the program
Fitbit Versa Smart Watch is on our list of top wearable models because of a variety of reasons. It is very reliable when it comes to tracking step count or your heart rate, so we can reasonably assume it is doing a great job tracking your sleep as well. It can monitor your heart rate 24 hours a day, so it is a great fitness tracker as well as a sleep tracker. The Fitbit app is excellent; it gives you detailed information about your sleep time and the time you spent in each stage of sleep. It gives you detailed graphs of those stages, as well as details about your average 30-day sleep patterns that can then be compared to people of similar demographics, such as age and sex. That can be very helpful in determining whether everything is alright with your sleep. The app also forces you to stick to your set goals. It gives you notifications about your sleep and waking times, and it can stimulate you to hold onto your program.
Amazing 4-day battery life is excellent for people who don’t have a lot of free time as you won’t need to charge it every minute. It requires only 2 hours of charging time. You can plug it in while doing household chores, and it will be completely charged before you are done. The watch also can store up to 300 songs; it enables calls and texts, it receives notifications, you can use it for contactless payment, and it supports a growing number of apps. It is water resistant up to 50 meters, so you don’t have to freak out when you forget to take it off during the shower, or you can easily take it for a swim or wear it in the gym. The Fitbit Versa is available for $200 or less, and it comes with one year warranty.
It is perfect for physically active people, people who want to learn more about their sleep patterns, people who want to set some sleeping goals and get reminders and tips on how to reach them daily. The only cons are that it has no integrated GPS like some other models and the music transfer sometimes can be a little bit slow. But don’t worry about GPS, you can always download an available app.
Overall, it’s a great watch, a lovely design with a bright screen, great app and some cool features when it comes to sleep tracking, definitely one of the best sleep tracker watches of 2018.
- Those who want advanced sleep data
- Physically active people
- People who want to set sleep goals and be motivated to accomplish them
- Anybody looking to improve their sleep patterns
Polar M430 GPS Running Watch
- Heart rate and sleep monitor
- Integrated GPS
- Water resistant
- Good battery life
- 2-year warranty
The Polar M430 GPS Running Watch has a wrist sensor that can track your heart rate. However, it does not follow it 24/7. It will only record your heart rate during your workouts; and even though you can always check out your heart rate, it doesn’t mark it anywhere. It has a well-detailed analysis of your sleep duration and information about the different sleep stages. It can also give you some general sleeping tips, as well as motivational reminders to stick with a good sleeping pattern.
The battery life is pretty good, and if you’re using every possible feature, it will last around 8 hours. You can boost that by not using some apps, such as GPS, and get a 30+ hours battery life, which is pretty solid. It depends on how much you use it, but the average you’ll need to charge it is once in 3 days.
GPS navigator is super fast, and it is perfect for those outdoorsy types, who often like to wander around in nature, or runners who want to switch up their daily routes. The running programs and fitness tips, in general, are one of the best features of The Polar M430, so if you are a marathon runner, an athlete, or an active person in general, this may be the best fit for you. Compared to the older M400, they have replaced the audio notifications with vibrating alerts. Some people have complained about difficult setup as it took them a few times to sync it with their phones or desktops.
At the price of $230, we can say it is reasonably affordable. Cool, retro look with a comfortable design will not only look great on your wrist but will also feel great. So if you are a runner, in need of a reliable GPS or want the detailed analytics of your sleep, this is a perfect watch for you.
- Those seeking advanced sleep data
- Runners and active people
- People who are looking to improve their sleep patterns
- GPS users
Best Non-Wearable Sleep Trackers
Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor
- Tracks heart rate and breathing rate
- Compatible with other smart home devices
- Personalized sleeping tips
- Can track sleeping patterns of two people
- Works best under the mattress
Beautyrest is definitely one of the best non-wearable sleep trackers on the market. It has a measuring pad that goes beneath your mattress, a small data processor and a smartphone App where you get all the information about sleep. If you are wondering if your mattress is too thick, don’t worry, Beautyrest can measure movement, heart rate, and respiration through mattress of any thickness.
With this device, you’ll get an advanced sleep data on your total shut-eye time, nightly interruptions, different stages of sleep, and you’ll also get some great sleeping tips. Additionally, it will give you a detailed explanation of what it means, so you don’t have to scratch your head looking at the graphs you don’t understand.
What makes this sleep tracker one of the best is its amazing interactive sleep coach function. It will ask you daily questions about your stress level and exercise and use that information to help you understand your sleeping habits better, and help you improve them. If you answer these questionnaires daily, you are more likely to get unique and specialized advice, unlike some generic tips you can find online. So the more information you feed it, the better it will be!
Beautyrest comes with two measuring pads, so it’s great for couples. You can both track your sleep habits, and don’t worry about your results mixing; it can easily distinguish between the two of you and keep your data separated.
It’s also compatible with other smart home devices such as Alexa, but keep in mind that you need WiFi to set it up.
- Those seeking advanced sleep data
- People looking for specially tailored sleep tips
- People who want to sync their sleep tracker with smart home devices
Withings Sleep Tracking Pad
- Heart rate and snoring monitors
- Can integrate with other smart home devices
- Personalized sleep coaching
- Works best under the mattress
Withings Sleep Tracking Pad is one of the best sleep tracking devices on the market. It monitors your heart rate and sleeping patterns. It can also record snoring, unlike many other sleep trackers. If you assume that you are a bit loud during the night, this device can clear your doubts and help you find a solution to this problem.
Withings Sleep Tracking Pad can track your total sleep time, your nightly interruptions, your sleep stages and can also give you customized tips on how to improve your sleep. The coaching part of the App is excellent, so you’ll get a piece of specially tailored advice to you, not just some generic tips.
Every morning you’ll receive your ‘Sleep score’ based on your previous night data. You’ll also rate the quality of your sleep, so Withings Sleep tracking Pad can use all this data and help you improve your sleep even more.
It is compatible with Alexa and other smart home devices. The only cons found is that there is no desktop application available and that it doesn’t have the alarm function like the others. The cost of the Withings Sleep Tracking Pad is less than $100, so it is an excellent price for all the fantastic features you are getting.
- Those looking for advanced sleep data
- Everybody who wants excellent tips for better sleep
- Values seekers
Tomorrow Sleeptracker Monitor
- Heart rate and breathing rate monitor
- Compatible with other smart home devices
- Can monitor two people at the same time
- Works best under a mattress
Tomorrow Sleeptracker Monitor is designed for tracking heart rate, respiration, movement, sleep duration, nightly interruptions and duration of the different stages of sleep for two people. It is a perfect option for couples as you won’t have to invest twice as much money in two devices. It uses gathered information to tailor the specific advice for each individual user.
It tracks your daily, weekly and monthly habits, so you’ll get short-term as well as long-term advice on how to improve them. Your sleeping data comes in handy when you’re waking up, cause The Tomorrow Sleeptracker will calculate when you enter the light stages of sleep so that the alarm will wake you up smoothly, and you won’t feel the need to hit that snooze button a few times as you’ll wake up rested and ready for your day.
You can also connect it with Alexa and other smart home devices, and all of that for a price of less than a $100, so it is pretty affordable. They also offer a 100 days free trial, so if it doesn’t suit you, you can always return it during that time. You can choose between one and two-person trackers, but the price is roughly the same.
- Those seeking advanced sleep data
- Everybody who is looking for coaching sleep tips
- Value seekers
That’s about everything you need to know about sleep trackers. They can help you improve one of the most critical parts of your life, your sleep. They are very reliable and not only can you get a sleep tracking device, but a fitness and health tracker with it as well. So, go online, look at the reviews and search for the one you like. And if you don’t feel like exploring on your own, be sure to check out our selection. We chose them for a reason; they are the best on the market!
Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.