We all know that getting a good 8 hours sleep a night is best for our mental and physical wellbeing. 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 work out how you slept, making sense. 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.
The sleep stages are awake, light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM). Naturally, when you rotate through them all in order, you wake up feeling great. 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 include 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.
- GPS + Cellular model lets you call, text, and get directions without your phone
- Measure your blood oxygen with an all-new sensor and app
- Check your heart rhythm with the ECG app
With the arrival of watchOS 7, the Apple Watch does now offer 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 colours 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 because of this, it’s accurate. 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.
Fitbit released this corker of a 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.
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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 the 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 awesome sleep tracking capabilities and definitely deserves a place in a list of best sleep trackers. On the whole, it offers the same functionality as the new Versa 3, which includes Sp02 monitoring.
- Use built-in GPS to see your pace and distance on screen during outdoor runs, rides, hikes and more...
- With Active Zone Minutes, feel a buzz when you reach your target heart rate zones during exercise,...
- Get a 90-day free trial of the Fitbit Premium to help you stay active, sleep well and manage stress....
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 behaviour over time and deliver personalised recommendations for getting better quality rest.
The accuracy is spot on, as you should expect from a Fitbit. The main difference between the Charge 4 and Sense or Versa 3 is a lack of 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.
- Free 1-year Fitbit Premium trial for new Premium users with personalized guidance, insights and...
- Earn Active Zone Minutes as you progress toward your weekly 150 minutes of heart-pumping activity...
- Track all-day activity: your steps, distance, hourly activity and calories burned
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 utilise 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.
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- Includes advanced sleep monitoring with REM sleep and can gauge blood oxygen saturation levels...
- Fitness and health monitoring tools include estimated wrist based heart rate, all day stress...
Sleep reporting on Garmin has improved exponentially over the past year or so. Similarly to Fitbit, it offers sleep stages but also tells you how long you spent in each zone. 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 apnoea 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 more superior. 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.
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The Vantage V2 has a built-in accelerometer which 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’s been proven to be reliable for knowing your restless/awake and sleep times, and the score is a good match for 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.
Saying that you’ll get five days use between charges instead of a week. Which probably seems ludicrous to Apple Watch users who have to find time every day.
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.
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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.
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 monitors for you depend on how much insight you need and what you need it for. We hope this has helped in your decision making!
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Last Updated on February 25, 2021