Sleeping forms a much bigger part of our lives than most of us realize, with up to a third of our lifetimes spent horizontal and unconscious. Our bodies need to sleep for many reasons, including to give our cells time to recover, to strengthen our immune responses, and to give our minds and emotions a well-deserved break.
It’s no wonder then that millions of people are becoming more interested in their own sleeping habits and looking for options to effectively monitor their sleep cycle. We are slowly understanding the importance of sleep and the impact it has on our waking lives. A good night’s sleep can make all the difference, helping us be our best selves: more productive, motivated, optimistic, and better able to handle whatever life throws our way.
It used to be that the only way to find out how well you were sleeping was to go to a sleep clinic and stay overnight for monitoring. Today, many forms of sleep monitoring technology are available for use at home. These devices are able to record and display metrics such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, movement, and respiration. Many devices, like sleep tracker smartwatches, are also able to tell when and for how long you are in different phases of sleep, such as light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid-eye-movement stages, and they are even able to offer feedback on how you can improve your nocturnal habits.
Let’s take a look at the many ways you can effectively monitor your sleep with a range of devices.
Bedside Sleep Monitoring Technology
If wearing a device that monitors your vitals feels intrusive to you, bedside technology might be the way to go. These devices are designed not to only pick up on your breathing and movement habits, but also to compile information on the room temperature, environmental noise (including snoring), ambient light, and even humidity.
Smartphones and tablets: Compatible with a multitude of sleep monitoring apps, smartphones and tablets are often the devices that work to compile and collect data from other wearables. The larger screens on these devices work well to analyze data that can’t be seen clearly on a wearable like a smartwatch, wrist tracker or ring. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used on their own. Many sleep apps are available for download that use a smartphone’s microphone to record sound levels in the environment such as heavy breathing or snoring.
Nightstand sensors: Easy to use and set up each night, nightstand sensors are a range of devices you simply place next to you. Common devices include Google’s Nest Hub, which registers any movement during sleep, as well as coughs, snoring habits, ambient lighting, and room temperature. SleepScore Max measures lots of different metrics and provides you with a personalized sleep score according to the time you’ve spent in deep sleep. It also senses sound and light levels.
In-Bed Devices for Sleep Tracking
The following devices are a little more up-close-and-personal than bedside devices, and can be more accurate, as well. They include in- and under-bed sensors as well as smart pillows.
Bed sensors and smart mattresses: These devices can collect data as you move around during the night. They can also take biometric readings, such as breathing rates and heart rates, as well as skin temperature and room humidity. Smart mattresses and smart beds have the benefit of being able to react to your sleep, not just record it–they can sense changes in position and reduce or increase mattress firmness to compensate. The popular range from Eight Sleep offers the ability to track many sleep metrics, including sleep stages.
Smart pillows: A user-friendly and non-intrusive way to monitor sleep, pillows equipped with technology are able to take in lots of information, such as breathing rates and snoring habits. Some of the best smart pillows on the market today include the iSense, which is compatible with your iPhone and boasts memory foam, and the Zeeq, which will vibrate if you are snoring too heavily and even plays music.
Under-mattress devices: An under-mattress tracker is perhaps the best option for those looking for unobtrusive sleep monitoring technology. Top brand name Withings offers a Sleep Analyzer pad that can accurately detect sleep apnea, heart rate, and movements, like tossing and turning, during sleep.
Wearable Devices for Sleep Monitoring
Wearable devices are the most common types of sleep tracker, simply because they offer a greater ability to provide precise biometric feedback such as heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygen saturation, skin temperature, movement, and much more.
Smartwatches: Some of the best sleep monitoring technology is built into smartwatches like those from Apple and Garmin, which come equipped with built-in sleep monitors and apps you can download to get a good visual representation of how you’ve slept. These devices can be used for a range of other tasks as well, including making phone calls and setting silent alarms, making them a more versatile option. Keep in mind that some smartwatches may lack accuracy compared to dedicated wearable sleep trackers.
Bands: A smaller silicone band with sensors, like a Fitbit, still has lots of tech inside but isn’t as bulky as a full-blown smartwatch. Bands like the Mi Band 5 & 6 offer sleep tracking tech that can measure your heart rate and blood oxygen levels to determine exactly how you are sleeping each night. Simply slip it on at night, go to sleep, and in the morning sync it with your smartphone or tablet to get all of the relevant data transferred over and analyze how you’ve slept.
Headbands: Simple to use and effective, headbands can be worn overnight to detect a range of metrics. Not only can they play calming music to help you drift off, but ones like the Phillips SmartSleep can monitor sleep stages and even play tones to enhance your sleeping. Most of these headbands are cushioned and some cover the whole head, while others simply sit around your forehead and take their measurements from close skin contact.
Rings: Even simpler and more streamlined than a smartwatch or band, a ring with built-in sensors such as the Oura is a smart way to detect everything from your heart rate to your temperature. It even has features to show how well you’ve recovered from activities the day before. Some rings are designed specifically for sleep tracking, but the vast majority work like fitness bands, allowing you to wear them all day long and track metrics like gym and swim workouts as well as steps taken in a day.