We all know that getting a good 8 hours of sleep a night is best for our mental and physical well-being. So we’ve looked at some of the best sleep trackers and monitors for 2021 to help you hit that magic number. Before you can choose the best sleep tracker for your needs, we should run through some basics, so you know what they each offer.
Heart rate monitors versus movement sensors
Initially, fitness trackers used to rely on your wrist movement to evaluate how you slept. Now, they use your heart rate. Brands like Withings and Fitbit consider your beats per minute and make educated guesses about the duration in each of the sleep stages you were in.
Based on the brain activity during sleep, there are four sleep stages: one is REM (rapid eye movement) and three are non-REM stages. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes.
Non-REM Stage 1 is the first stage that lasts one to five minutes. The body and brain start to slow down, but the body is not fully relaxed. You can easily wake up during this stage of light sleep.
Non-REM Stage 2 lasts 10-25 minutes during the first sleep cycle and becomes longer during the following cycles. It is characterized by a deeper relaxation of the muscles and slower brain activity. The breathing and the heart rate also slow down, and the body temperature drops. The sleep during this stage is also fairly light.
Non-REM Stage 3 is deep sleep, and the brain activity includes short waves- also known as delta waves. The muscle tone, breathing rate, and pulse are further decreased, and the body is relaxed. During this stage, the body recovers, repairs, and grows. There is more deep sleep during the first part of the night when this stage typically lasts 20-40 minutes.
REM sleep is different. During this stage the brain activity suddenly increases, resembling the brain activity when you are awake. However, the body’s muscles are paralyzed with the exception of the muscles of the eyes and those involved in breathing. REM sleep is important for memory and learning, and during this time most vivid dreams are experienced. The REM stage is shorter during the first cycles and can last up to an hour during the second half of the night.
Naturally, you should wake up refreshed and feel the energy throughout the day. However, if you don’t, you should get a sleep tracker to tell you why not. All the best sleep trackers and monitors for 2021 rely on your heart rate.
Some brands will present your sleep data into a simple score. Usually, it’s out of 100, and the higher the score, the better quality sleep. You’ll see this on wearables from the likes of Withings, Garmin, and Fitbit.
This is a newer trend we’re seeing on fitness trackers, and they do so via a SpO2 sensor. Again, the brands you’ll see this on including Withings, Garmin, and Fitbit.
It works by monitoring the amount of oxygen in your blood. A fall in blood oxygen levels is seen in conditions like sleep apnoea – so it’s a useful piece of information to keep an eye on.
Now you know some basic features to look for, let’s look at the best sleep trackers and monitors for 2021.
Apple Watch Series 6 and SE
The arrival of Watch OS 7 brought us native sleep tracking, at long last! This feature can now be used on the Apple Watch Series from 3 to the newer Series 6 and SE.
With the arrival of watchOS 7, the Apple Watch now offers native sleep tracking. That support has been added to the Series 3, 4, 5 and the new Series 6 and SE watches.
If you’ve been using a third-party app to track your sleep, you no longer need to. Your Apple Watch will do this for you now. It’ll tell you your sleep duration for the night, and it’ll highlight in light and dark colors where you were awake.
This feature works in conjunction with BedTime, which brings a streamlined functionality between your iPhone and Apple Watch. It works by helping you get into bed at a decent time, as well as waking you at an optimal time in the morning.
Overall, sleep tracking on any Apple Watch is pretty basic, but it can give you a good idea about your sleep time and sleep quality. Tested against Fitbit, it offers the same reliability level, even if it doesn’t come with as much detail as its rivals.
Check out our Apple Watch comparison article, here.
Apple Watch sleep data
The data is somewhat oversimplified compared to brands known for excellent sleep tracking, like Garmin or Fitbit. So, if you’d like rich insights, you’ll need to download a third-party app.
The Apple Watch is extremely comfortable to wear, even in bed. It’s a little larger and heavier than the Fitbit Sense (which we’ll cover next), but this doesn’t seem to impact its comfort on the wrist. It’s recommended you use a silicone band if you intend to wear this through the night.
What’s great about this purchase is that it’s currently the best smartwatch you can buy right now, so check out our full review to see exactly what you’d be getting.
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
The Fenix 6 lineup consists of 19 devices divided into three sizes:
- 6S at 42mm
- 6 at 47mm
- 6X at 51mm
What’s more, they come in three styles:
- Pro – Including music and maps
- Pro Solar – Including music, maps and additional battery life through solar power
The Fenix 6 may be only offered in 6S and 6 versions, though it has advanced functionality such as PacePro and training load analysis.
The Fenix 6 Pro smartwatch has the same five physical buttons as its siblings. More, the design hasn’t changed a lot since the Fenix 5. Typically for Garmin, the watches are chunky with exposed screws located on the bezel.
Speaking of the physical size, expect a beastly 47mm by 14.7mm. The bands are interchangeable and these vary in size depending on the material. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass or sapphire crystal depending on the model you go for.
Garmin made some improvements to the screen size, which has been improved in all models with the exception of the 6S, which are the same as the Fenix 5S. However, the Fenix 6 Pro has a 260 x 260 resolution on a hefty 1.3-inch screen. Note, the 6X Pro and Pro Solar are bigger and better at 280 x 280 and 1.4-inches respectively. The Fenix 6 Pro is incredibly easy to read in all lighting.
Looking at the battery life, you can expect 36 hours with GPS, or just 10 with GPS and music at the same time.
Garmin Fenix 6 Sleep Tracking
Whilst you’re asleep, the Fenix 6 will automatically start monitoring your movements during those hours in bed. You can tell your watch what hours you typically sleep during, using your Garmin Connect app, which is also where you’ll see your sleep data in the morning.
Note, if you have a cheeky nap it won’t count these minutes toward your sleep stats. Though, you can use the Do Not Disturb feature to temporarily switch off any distractions from notifications.
Fitbit released this corker of fitness and smartwatch at the end of 2020, and it’s been giving the Apple Watch 6 and SE a run for its money. It’s hands-down the best sleep tracker option on this list when it comes to data.
It’s not as comfortable as the Apple Watch, but you do get better insights. It has the same sleep tracking tech as its Fitbit siblings, so you get the same sleep stages and sleep score. You get a detailed breakdown of your cycles from awake through to light, deep, and REM stages. You can check how your night’s sleep compared to the rest of the month or benchmarks from people your age.
The Fitbit Sense has a SpO2 sensor to give you an idea of your oxygen variation as you slept. So this is a device to opt for if sleep apnea is a concern.
As we mentioned, Fitbit delivers a sleep score, which is a combination of your sleep duration, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and restlessness/awake time. This is calculated into a straightforward score out of 100. Generally, anything above 90 is considered excellent, whereas 85 is about average-good. It’s best to sign up to Fitbit Premium to leverage the data, where you can access more in-depth information. You get six months free when you buy a Sense, so you have a lot of time to see if you find it useful.
Fitbit has a reputation for offering great sleep tracking; it’s accurate and reliable.
Check out our Fitbit comparison, here.
Fitbit Charge 4
On a smaller budget, the Fitbit Charge 4 offers the same sleep tracking capabilities and definitely deserves a place in the list of best sleep trackers. On the whole, it offers the same functionality as the new Versa 3, which includes Sp02 monitoring.
You still get the Fitbit Sleep Stages, which offers an in-depth insight into your night’s sleep. What’s more, it’ll learn your behavior over time and deliver personalized recommendations for getting better quality rest.
The main difference between the Charge 4 and Sense or Versa 3 is a lack of a large, touchscreen display, so you’ll be relying on the app on your phone. But here, you get useful graphs, so it’s worthwhile.
Fitbit Inspire 2
Fitbit really does dominate the fitness tracking world’s sleep tracking side, so this is a third entry on the list of best sleep trackers from the brand. The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a lightweight but powerful device comfortable enough to wear through the night to track your sleep.
You get all the same great sleep tracking features: Sleep stages, heart rate, sleep score, and restoration. However, you don’t get any idea of blood oxygen variation as there isn’t an Sp02 sensor onboard. But you can utilize silent alarms to wake you up at the best time during your sleep cycle for a peaceful wake.
Using Fitbit Premium, you can unlock your heart rate during sleep data as well as levels of restlessness.
Apart from that, you get the same reliable Fitbit user experience in a sleek and lightweight device that won’t break the bank.
Garmin Vivosmart 4
No list of best sleep trackers would be complete without including Garmin. The Vivosmart 4 looks like a basic fitness tracker, but it packs a punch. It contains sensors that offer deep insight into your sleeping patterns, and Fitbit should be taking note.
Sleep reporting on Garmin has greatly improved over the past year or so. Similar to Fitbit, it offers sleep stages but also tells you how long you spent in each stage. This is new to the app. The device itself has a heart rate sensor and uses that information to deliver your sleep cycle analysis.
The Vivosmart 4 carries a SpO2 sensor and will look into your blood oxygen levels within the app. Again, another good choice if sleep apnea is something you have to look out for.
If you find it hard to fall asleep, as so many of us do, there is a guided breathing module built-in, which you can use in conjunction with stress tracking. So you can tell if your poor night sleep correlates to your stress levels and therefore can make some changes to improve your sleep.
What’s more, because we all know Garmin is for serious fitness fans, the Vivosmart 4 also offers VO2 Max data for use during training.
The reason Garmin isn’t sitting above Fitbit on this list of best sleep trackers is purely down to the fact that the Fitbit app is slightly better. The Garmin Connect app offers fewer insights.
Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 is an outstanding fitness watch, and part of being fit and healthy includes getting adequate sleep. So the Vantage V2 pays attention to your sleep patterns and certainly deserves a place on the list of best sleep trackers.
The Vantage V2 has a built-in accelerometer that informs the device of when you’re sleeping. Then, it will calculate your insights from there.
You’ll get an analysis of your duration, sleep, and awake time plus a sleep score. With Polar, you also get a Nightly Recharge feature which is really interesting. It tells you about the recovery of your ANS.
It gives you details about your restless/awake and sleep times, and the score should match how you feel during the day. The biggest issue is the drain these features have on the battery life, which is an eternal struggle for smartwatch users who want to wear their devices throughout the night.
Whoop Strap 3.0
The Whoop Strap 3.0 comes at you from left-field and is probably not so expected on a list of the best sleep trackers. It’s an activity tracker at its core, but sleep tracking is just as important as activity monitoring.
Much like Fitbit, Garmin, and Polar, the Whoop Strap will deliver a sleep score based on your sleep duration and quality. It measures this against your need for sleep, which it gets from your training over the course of the week.
Like the others, it also tells you about your sleep stages.
What’s really advanced about the Whoop Strap 3.0 is that it will factor in your screen time, alcohol and caffeine intake and whether you sleep alone or with a partner. This gets shoved into an algorithm that will then tell you if you should train or take it easy for the day. This is called your Strain Score.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t track your steps. This is an option for serious fitness fans. As such, it’s more expensive than most Fitbits, and the subscription for the premium features is more than twice as expensive as Fitbit Premium.
Withings Steel HR Sport
The Steel HR Sport from Withings delivers information about your time spent in the sleep stages, showing how your heart rate varied throughout the night.
This Withings device is more health-oriented than predecessors, so it’s more comfortable to wear in bed. It’s slim and comfortable and has an alarm to gently wake you much in the same way the Fitbit and Apple Watches do.
Some users have reported that the accuracy isn’t on par with competitors, but it’s not far off. The data itself is presented in an easy-to-understand way, but the insights themselves aren’t as deep. So if you’re new to sleep monitoring or want a rough idea without knowing about every toss and turn, this is a good call.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6
At first glance, the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 seems unremarkable, but it comes preloaded with a load of health and fitness applications.
Its design is identical to last year’s Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 5, with the notable exception of the display, which is brighter and clearer, allowing you to see your daily stats at a glance.
In terms of functionality, you can get all-day stress tracking, a pulse oximeter, and breathing exercises.
The sensors monitors your heart rate, allowing you to fine-tune your fitness settings.
There are, however, a number of disadvantages. The monitoring proved to be somewhat untrustworthy, which is not surprising for a low-cost tracker. When running long distances, you can also keep the band tight to prevent discomfort from friction.
Features and design
It’s a mid-range fitness tracker with a lightweight, long, silicone wristband that’s almost identical to its predecessor.
With a resolution of 152 x 86 pixels, the screen is very readable. You can pick your favorite face and access your complications with a single tap.
Since it is water-resistant to 50 meters, it is not recommended that you wear this watch while swimming or snorkeling. At most, light rain showers.
The Xiaomi Smart Band 6 has a few more capabilities often associated with a more expensive wearable. Stress management, breathing techniques, and female cycle monitoring are all part of this.
On the Mi Smart Band 6, there is no onboard music storage. You’ll get email, text, and phone notifications, but you won’t be able to contact anyone. Since there is no microphone, there is also no Alexa or Google Assistant compatibility.
The Mi Smart Band 6 reliably measures deep and light sleep cycles, as well as REM sleep cycles.
Xiaomi advertises a 14-day battery life, however, using all of the above often will greatly shorten this.
Track your fitness
While GPS is available, some users have reported inaccuracies. Again, a budget tracker shouldn’t come as a surprise.
It has an auto-pause feature that stops the tracker after a few seconds of inactivity. You would not lose track of your exercise, for example, when standing at a crosswalk or biking.
PAI is the overall cardiovascular (heart and lung) health ranking. Whatever the numerical value, you should see an improvement in your physical well-being as you continue in your exercise path.
If you’re just getting started and need some basic or rough info, the Mi Smart Band 6 might be a useful training tool.
The amount and quality of your sleep at night directly impacts how you feel, inside and out. This can have an immediate effect on how the following day goes for you, leading to longer-term implications.
Your sleep also impacts how well and hard you’re able to train. So it’s no wonder sleep tracking has become commonplace on fitness trackers. The best sleep trackers and health monitoring watch for you depend on how much insight you need and what you need it for. We hope this has helped in your decision-making!
Concerned About Sleep Apnea? Get A Sleep Test!
Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder. Although many cases are not diagnosed, sleep apnea potentially affects 1 billion people worldwide. The breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for air during the night, waking up with a dry mouth, feeling tired, irritable, and having trouble with focus and concentration during the day. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor.
Quick Tips For A Better Sleep
Sleep quality and sleep quantity are both important. Sleep experts recommend between 7 and 9 hours of good quality sleep per night for most adults. Based on research studies, adults who get less than seven hours of sleep per night on a regular basis are more likely to experience poor health- including diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, depression, strokes and gain weight.
Better sleep quality comes from improving your sleep hygiene: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. The best sleep is between 10 pm-2 am, therefore try to get as many hours as possible during this time. Your bedroom has to be completely dark, on the cool side. Avoid watching TV before bedtime. Have your last meal at least 4 hours before bedtime, to allow your food to get digested and not interfere with your sleep. Sleep can be improved by wearing blue light-blocking glasses after sunset. A hot bath took 1-2 hours before bedtime helps you fall asleep faster. Stay active and exercise during the day. Avoid naps, or if you take them, keep them very short (ie 20 -25 minutes). Avoid caffeine after 2-4 pm.
If you need to know the exact data about your sleep habits you will have to talk to your doctor and get a medical sleep study. A sleep study monitors the brain waves and is the most accurate test to diagnose sleep apnea or other sleep conditions.
Sleep trackers are not as accurate as a sleep test but can help you recognize patterns in your sleeping habits, so you can adjust and improve your lifestyle.
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Last Updated on July 22, 2021