We all know that a bad nights sleep will leave you feeling groggy and tired in the morning. You wake up with a lack of energy and you just aren't ready to attack the day with your usual zest.
The number of people not getting enough sleep every night is rising as the stresses become greater and greater whether its work, family or general life related.
You may already know that you're getting optimal amounts of sleep, but wouldn't it be fascinating to be able to account for these hours. With sleep trackers now you can.
Many studies have been conducted and extensive research has been completed to explore sleeping patterns and behaviour, usually with older generation expensive equipment. Technology has progressed rapidly and now the average consumer now has the capability to monitor their own individual sleep pattern.
Scientists have done extensive research on sleep patterns and typically use bulky/expensive equipment to do so. However with the advent of new technologies, it is now possible for the average consumer to easily monitor their sleep patterns.
Of course you won't be able to accurately diagnose any complex medical issues like a profession assessment would, but a sleep tracker can provide useful and interesting information about the quality of your sleep and can provide additional tips and steps you can take to improve it.
We've hunted down the top 10 best sleep trackers to help you monitor and improve you sleeping patterns to allow you to get to sleep easier and sleep for longer.
Fitbit Charge HR Activity & Sleep Tracker
Garmin Vivosmart Sleep & Activity Tracker
Fitbit Blaze Fitness Smart Watch
Jawbone UP3 Fitness & Sleep Tracker
Fitbit Surge Activity & Sleep Tracker
Hello Charcoal Sense Sleep Tracker
Withings Activite Pop Sleep Tracker
Fitbit Flex Sleep & Activity Tracker
Polar Loop 2 Sleep & Activity Tracker
Alternatives to Sleep Trackers
So you can truly see how effective sleep trackers are, you must first learn about the alternatives that are available to you.
Sleep Tracking Phone Apps
The quickest and cheapest way to get started with sleep tracking is by downloading an app for your smartphone from the app store. The pricing for these apps can range from being free to a few pounds, so they are inexpensive.
The beauty of using an app is that you don't need to purchase any additional special equipment and the phone uses its own built in accelerometer to record and measure your movement throughout the night.
They work pretty simply, you turn the app on just before you go to sleep and position your phone under the pillow or close to you on the mattress. The phone will then take over and track all your body movements.
However these apps do have some major flaws, with the main issue being accuracy. One example of this is that different mattresses will alter readings in a different way.
Calibration of the technology is challenging and your phone can have problems interpreting which movements are from you or your bed partner, which of course lead in inaccurate data. This is by far the worst solution and should be avoided if possible.
The other alternative option to using a sleep tracker is to be admitted to a specialist sleep centre.
You must be refered to a sleep clinic by your doctor if they suspect that you may have a sleep order, and depending on your symptoms a sleep study may be recommended also known as a polysomnography.
Sleep clinic studies usually require you to stay one or two nights in a specially equipped room that has different types of equipment which accurately measure you sleep cycle, pattern and stages throughout the night. You will usually be observed by a medical proffesional and a whole range of information will be collated about your sleeping habits:
- Heart Rate
- Heart rhythm
- Brain Waves
- Breathing patterns and frequency
- General muscle activity
- Eye movement
- Sleeping positions throughotu the night
- Oxygen levels within your blood.
Once this is complete, the clinic will have a huge amount of data which can then be used to assess and diagnose any sleep disorders or issues that you may be suffering from.
Of course a small sleep tracker is not going to be as effective as a sleep study but it can still provide you with some very important information that can lead you to getting a better nights sleep.
It must be remembered that it can be difficult to get referred to a sleep clinic and if you decide to do it privately it can be extremely costly so using a sleep tracker is great initial alternative.
Non Wearable Sleep Monitor Devices
Whilst the majority of sleep trackers are wrist devices, there is an alternative. There are now a number of non wearable devices that stay in the bedroom that can monitor your sleep.
These are ideal for people that are interested in gathering more detailed and accurate data. The devices is either tucked into you mattress or sits on the top for you to lie on.
The device detects and records three different types of body vibrations: chest movement for breathing, big body movements and Cardioballistic effect. A Cardioballistic effect is tiny recoil within the entire body when the heart beats.
This technology is still very new to the market so they haven't yet undergone widespread rigorous independent testing. However it's very promising for what the future holds as technology continues to advance at breakneck speed.
How Do Sleep Trackers Work?
The majority of sleep trackers use Actigraphy technology. Actigraphy uses non invasive methods using Accerlerometres; a device that has the capability to record a users movement and position.
So in simple terms, if there is a certain amount of the movement the device concludes that the user is awake, and when there is little to no movement the device concludes that the wearer is asleep.
Actigraphy is actually used in sleep clinics by health professionals, however they test many different things so it plays a smaller part in the overall results compared to a sleep tracker.
In some ways a home sleep tracker may be more effective and accurate than a sleep clinic. If you are admitted into a sleep clinic you will be sleeping on an uncomfortable hospital bed surrounded by several machines and have electrodes placed on your head. These factors can lead to you finding it even harder to fall asleep.
If you were to use Actigraphy in the comfort of you own home by wearing a device for several weeks, it may give you a truer and more accurate insight compared to a couple of nights in an unfamiliar sleep clinic.
How Accurate are Sleep Trackers?
There have been many debates about how accurate sleep trackers that use Actigraphy are in comparison to polysomnography that is used by sleep clinics.
In 2011 research was published by Hakim and Martin which studied the accuracy, usefulness and effectiveness of wrist Actigraphy for sleep assessment.
It was also compared to to the following other types sleep behaviour assessment.
- Daily sleep diaries
- Clinical lab Polysomnography
- Clinical interviews
- Sleep Qustionnaires
- Videosomnography in children
It was concluded that wrist Actigraphy is significantly more effective for assessing sleep patters in natural environments out side of a clinical setting.
The duo also stated that wrist Actigraphy is accurate when it comes to reporting on information such as:
- Total sleep time
- Sleep percentage
- How long it takes to wake
In addition they also stated that the main accuracy issue with sleep trackers is that they can wrongly conclude that being awake and motionless is you being asleep. This can be inaccurate for people with severe stage insomnia who lie completely still and do not move about.
It's clear to see that wrist Actigraphy does have some clear drawbacks, but it is definitely useful and manufacturers are constantly making improvements to increase their accuracy.
To solve this issue, many sleep trackers allow you to signal when you are trying to go to sleep rather than just sitting still relaxing. Whilst other trackers also let you manually retrospectively correct any mistakes that you think the tracker has made.
1. Fitbit Charge HR Review
Fitbit are comfortably the leaders in the wearable wrist technology industry as a result of consistently pushing the boundaries and progressing the industry year after year.
The Fitbit Charge isn't just limited to tracking sleep activity and is a superb all rounder and has the capability to monitor heart rate, record workouts and day to day activity as well as smart watch functions such as caller ID.
It also features a clear digital display to keep you up to date with your latest information and it can also be synced wirelessly to your PC, laptop or smart phone so you can read the information in more detail.
What it doesn't do is give you detailed information about sleeping cycles however it does provide accurate key information metrics. including how long and how well you slept.
Benefits of Fitbit Charge HR Activity Wristband
- Accurate heart rate monitor
- Tells you how long you slept for.
- Tells you how long you were awake for
- lovely modern design with a simple to use display
- Silent vibrating alarm clock, ideal to not wake your partner
- Available in a range of wrist sizes and colours
- Can display caller ID when synced with mobile phone
- Accurately measures exercise exertion such as calories burnt, steps taken and floors climbed.
Overall the Fitbit Charge is a fantastic all rounder and rated as the best sleep tracker, This tracker doesn't just limit you to tracking sleep but also allows you to analyse your exercise habits. This wristband is perfect as both an entry product or an upgrade from your existing tracker.
The best thing I like about this watch is that it sticks to monitoring and recording the basic information, but it does it well. Unlike competitor brands that try and record dozens of different metrics but does it inaccurately.
2. Garmin Vivosmart Activity Tracker Review
Garmin have established themselves as one of the top fitness and activewear wristband manufacturers and brands. This Vivosmart activity tracker records a whole range of data including sleep activity, heart rate , steps and intensity.
When it comes to tracking sleep it is extremely accurate and gives you an insight into you nightly sleeping habits. The watch records how much light sleep and how much deep sleep you get each night. It also records how long you're awake during the night. This is also collated into easy to digest graphs.
When you view the sleeping data, you can make any changes to the data if you feel that it may have made a mistake. i.e if you were sat very still awake for a period of time. This is rare but it can happen with any tracker.
It doesn't provide detailed information about sleeping cycles but it does record the most important information that you need to make decisions about your future sleeping habits.
Benefits of Garmin Vivosmart Activity Tracker
- Records length of both light and heavy sleep.
- Records period of time you were awake
- Syncs with phone app, laptop and PC.
- Records steps taken, intensity, heart rate and floors climbed
- Long battery life in between charges
- Comfortable to wear for long periods
The Garmin Vivosmart will not leave you disappointed due to the large amount of features that it has along with the accuracy of its sleep tracking function. Activity trackers can be rather bulky but this Garmin device is slim, sleek and lightweight.
Once you experience the usefulness of an activity tracker you will wonder how you managed without one.
3. Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch Review
The Fitbit Blaze is one of the latest 2016 releases in the Fitbit line of smart fitness activity trackers. You can see the clear evolution from their first range to this product as it now looks like a fully fledged smart watch as opposed to a wristband.
Similar to its counterparts, the Fitbit Surge & Charge, it tracks a whole host of different activity information which is accessible in their easy to use app which can also be accessed on laptop and PC's.
Unlike many competitor watches, the Fitbit Blaze records different sleep cycles that you have throughout the night. as well as how long you're actually asleep for.
The watch tracks sleep extremely well, and despite early concerns it is extremely light and comfortable to wear and you don't even realise its there so it doesn't affect your sleep.
Benefits of Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch
- Strong battery life
- Tracks sleep activity accurately and has an automatic sleep feature
- Tracks sleeping cycles
- Excellent all round activity tracker including heart rate, steps and floors.
- Smartwatch sync to phone to view texts, calendars, memos etc.
If your budget is a little higher then this is the watch for you as it is a great hybrid between activity tracker and smart watch and many people have upgraded from the Fitbit Charge to this model.
Its strong sleep tracking ability combined with its general activity tracking capability makes it one of the leading watches on the market and fully justifies its price tag.
4. Jawbone UP3 Activity & Sleep Tracker Review
The Jawbone UP3 is one of the most advanced sleep trackers on the market and its manufacturers are pushing the boundaries when it comes to incorporating new technology that improves the accuracy of sleep tracking.
Due to this, the product initially received bad reviews due to firmware update issues which has since been resolved after a major update to all models. In regards specifically to sleep tracking it is highly advanced and accurate and also uses its built in heart monitor to detect when you have fallen asleep.
The Jawbone has a number of different sensors that all work together to build a report on your sleep. These unique sensors measure heart rate, breathing rate, galvanic skin response and overall body temperature. It also has auto sleep detection where it accurately knows when you fall asleep.
It can then recognise when you fall asleep, wake up and also provides more advanced sleep tracking such as REM, light and deep sleep. It also features a silent alarm to wake you up gently without waking your partner.
Benefits of Jawbone UP3 Activity & Sleep Tracker
- Stylish sleek design
- Accurately tracks sleep and has superb auto sleep function
- Long lasting battery
- Easy to sync to app to view the latest data
- Records general fitness activity such as steps, heart rate, floor climbed etc.
There are very few other bands that record as much different sleep information and metrics as the Jawbone UP3, this gives you a detailed look into your sleeping habits allowing you to make more accurate decisions about how to improve.
One drawback is that there is no display on the tracker so you can't monitor performance throughout the day but it easily syncs to the smart phone app so you can just view the live data on there.
A large number of negative reviews were before the firmware update in November 2015 which should taken into consideration. But when it comes to the amount of sleep tracking information, this is comfortably one of the best.
5. Fitbit Surge Fitness Watch Review
The Fitbit Surge contains all the incredible features of an activity tracker whilst having the usability of a smart watch.
With its automatic heart rate monitoring, the Fitbit Surge also automatically monitors your sleep including how long you slept for and how well you slept. This is possible because of its eight sensor technology, it also has a silent alarm to wake you up slowly in the morning.
If you decide to use the automatic sleep function, if you disagree with the period of time that the watch thinks you slept for you can manually correct it within the app dashboard.
Of course it also tracks general activity information such as steps and floor climbed. But it goes one step further than the Fitbit Blaze as it has built in GPS tracking to display distance, pace and elevation.
Benefits of Fitbit Surge Fitness Watch
- Breakdown of sleep into deep sleep, total sleep time and time spent awake
- Lovely modern design
- Long lasting battery when GPS is off
- Automatic and manual sleep tracking
- GPS tracking to track detailed performance
- Sync with mobile to view calls, text, memos etc
This is the future of sleep trackers which is a hybrid between an activity tracker and a smart watch and this is only the beginning. This isn't just for high performance athletes, but for anyone who is looking to optimise and improve their sleep and general lives.
6. Hello Charcoal Sense Review
Hello are a new technology company who challenged themselves to create a sleep tracker that didn't have to be stuck to your wrist. The result of this is the Sense sleep tracker.
The product comes in two parts: the main unit that is clipped to your pillow, and the sleep pill that is a small clip on disc that you attache to your pillow.
The pill that is attached to your bed measures and detects the movement that you make throughout the night and can sense when you're awake or asleep. The data is transmitted to the main unit, The main unit then collates the information and displays it in easy to understand format.
It couldn't be easier to operate, you just simply wave your hand over the sensor and wait for it to flash green, then its ready to go.
Using the data it then makes recommendations for you to improve your quality of sleep. It even collects data such as the amount of light, the temperature and noise to give you the most complete sleep information profile.
Benefits of Hello Sense + Sleep Pill
- Easy to understand and operate
- Accurate sleep tracking capability
- Doesn't need to be attached to you or worn.
- Competitive pricing means its in the similar price bracket to wristband sleep trackers
- Provides an extensive range of sleep information and data
- Data can be easily synced to the App or your laptop
- It has a speaker that can play white noise or calming sounds
This is the future of sleep trackers that don't need to be attached to your body. It is extremely easy to set up and provides extremely accurate sleep tracking features whilst being competitively priced. This is highly superior to its main non wearable competitor, The Beddit Sensor and is also a great alternative to the traditional wrist wearable technology.
The sleep recommendations it makes are basic and do need some improvement, however we expect to see this with future firmware updates.
7. Withings Activite Pop Sleep Tracker Watch Review
The Withings Activite Pop brings the functionality of a top class activity tracker with the sleek stylish aesthetics of a top quality crafted designer watch. Made up of a stainless steel unit with silicone strap, it is comfy to wear for the whole day.
This watch automatically tracks your daily activity including steps, running, swimming, distance and calories burned. It then works as a sleep tracker and the information can be easily consumed via the smartphone app.
The Activite Pop detects when you're asleep automatically and then can recognise and record your sleep patterns including deep and light sleep cycles, sleep interruptions and the total time slept. You can then be woken up by the silent vibrating alarm.
Benefits of Withings Activite Pop Sleep and Activity Tracker
- Up to 8 months battery life, operates on a single button cell watch battery so never needs to be charged
- Automatic notification sent to you when battery is running low
- Elegant design and is comparable to many designer watches so is suitable for formal and fun occasions
- Effective sleep and activity tracker
- Fully waterproof
- High quality support and customer service
- Easy to set up and sync
- Comes in a number of different styles and colours
If there was one drawback about this watch, it would that because it is such a beautifully crafted watch, it is slightly more fragile than competitor watches that are a little more durable.
This is one of our favourite sleep and activity trackers because not only does it have highly advanced technology but is also an extremely stylish watch that is suitable for any setting. You couldn't wear a Fitbit out for dinner, but you could with this watch.
8. Fitbit Flex Activity and Sleep Tracker Review
You must be starting to see a pattern here? Fitbit really are the leaders when it comes to producing a huge range of activity and sleep trackers with a range of different features and technology.
The Fitbit Flex is one of the slimmest in the range and has the ability to track distance,steps and calories burned. Then at night it tracks your sleep cycle and guides you to a better quality sleep.
It specifically tracks how long you sleep for and how well you slept. You can then use its silent alarm feature to gently wake you up.
Before you go to sleep you can set it to sleep mode so the Fitbit knows you're going to sleep, and when you wake in the morning you can manually notify it again.
Benefits of Fitbit Flex Sleep and Activity Tracker
- Lasts up to 7 days on a single charge
- Water resistant
- Tracks a whole host of different activity and sleep information accurately
- Syncs with smartphone app to allow you to analyse your sleep and activity information
The clear drawback is that although it gives you detailed information about your sleeping habits, it's not able to advise you on how to improve. However this often a great start which can allow you to take this further with your doctor to then fully diagnose a problem. The tracker can still highlight a problem that you never knew you had.
This is an ideal entry watch if you're looking to get your first activity and sleep tracker, however this watch is an activity tracker first, sleep tracker second. So if you're looking for more detailed insight into your sleeping habits then it'd be advised to purchased a tracker higher up on the list.
9. Polar Loop 2 Activity and Sleep Tracker Review
Polar have been around for many years developing and releasing activity related technology from watches to digital cycling trackers so they have the know how to create a top quality product.
Whilst the watch incorporates all the standard features of a fitness activity tracker, it also has the capability to track your sleeping activity.
The Polar Loop 2 is small and comfortable enough to be worn throughout the night and can track your sleep based on the movements you make and it operates automatically so you don't need to switch modes when you get into bed.
The data is then broken down by the smartphone app, and has two categories: restless sleep and restful sleep to give you an total sleep time.
The watch is fairly accurate when it comes to calculating the total sleep time, however only the top sleep trackers can do this anywhere near 100% accuracy.
The watch is also clever enough to wake you up with a vibrating alarm during a lighter phase of your sleep. Instead of during a deeper sleeping phase. This leads to you start the day feeling fresh and awake.
Benefits of Polar Loop 2 Sleep & Activity Tracker
- Smart sleep alarm
- Slim comfortable design
- Strong battery life ( up to 8 days on full charge)
The clear drawback is that it has a very basic display which doesn't give you much detailed insight or details. However some users may like a more simple minimalistic display that doesn't bombard you with a large amount of numbers and data.
This is strong choice as an entry watch due to how easy it is to operate, however you may outgrow it very quickly and decide you want to upgrade to a more advanced tracker within a few months.
The smart activity and sleep tracker industry is still in its infancy and is growing and advancing at an astonishingly fast rate. However with this guide you're now able to purchase the best sleep tracker that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
One main tip is that we advise you only take into consideration amazon product reviews that were written within the last 0-6 months. This is because when these products are first released, they often have bugs and problems which are then fixed via firmware updates soon after.
Because of this, you often find that they have poor reviews when they first launch, but then rapidly improve over time.