Sleep Accessories

Best Sleep Trackers - Our Top Picks for 2019 and Buyers Guide

A guide to the best sleep trackers, the pros and cons, who they’re good for, and what to consider when shopping for them.

By Tyler Moyer

The last decade has seen a cascade of wearable devices from companies like Apple and Fitbit, who design these products with the goal of improving our lives in mind. From steps taken and calories burned to calendar alerts and the daily forecast, practically anything can be made available to you via the technology in these devices. Recently, a new area has been subject to experimentation from trackers and health-related apps: sleep.

Tracking your sleeping habits allows you to collect valuable data that can be examined for trends that reveal how to achieve better sleep. But which sleep tracking device or app is best in terms of functionality, data, accuracy, and usability? Keep reading to see our top 10 picks for the best sleep trackers of 2019, followed by a guide to finding the best sleep tech for you.

Top Sleep Trackers

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is one of the most popular health-tracking devices, and while it lacks a built-in sleep tracker for now (Apple’s hinted at developing one as soon as 2020), it’s compatible with many iPhone sleep tracking apps. The selection of apps gives wearers of this band the freedom to experiment with different sleep trackers. To do so, simply download the Apple Watch App of your choosing, like SleepWatch or Bodymatter, to track your sleep.

Reason to Buy: The beauty of the Apple Watch is that you can choose the sleep app you like based on the data it provides, how it works, and its interface. While the watch is an investment, it’s practically a computer that wraps around your wrist, so you’ll enjoy its many other features with your purchase like activity tracking and music. Keep in mind that you’ll need to be wearing this device as you sleep to gather data for most compatible sleep apps, so if having a watch on in bed bothers you, it might not be your best choice.

FitBit Versa

This is another wrist-worn activity tracker that’s famous for measuring your daily step count. Newer Fitbit models, like the Fitbit Versa, automatically detect your sleep when you wear the tracker to bed. It’s a more affordable option than the Apple Watch, but the accuracy varies, as some models have heart-rate tracking whereas others do not.

Reason to Buy: Unlike the Apple Watch, Fitbit’s wearables have native sleep trackingthere’s no need to set up or install anything. The data provided on Fitbit’s app is thorough (a study from the University of California San Francisco found that Fitbit can even detect sleep apnea and hypertension). You’ll find heart rate variability and REM sleep stage data, which is then aggregated into sleep insights. Sleep insights pull together your exercise, diet, weight, and sleep quality to show you what is positively or negatively affecting your sleep. Unlike the Apple Watch, which needs to be charged daily, advanced Fitbit models can last up to seven days, making it easy to collect a week’s worth of data on a single charge.

Garmin

Our third wearable tracker recommendation, the Garmin, has been known for sports tracking (running, cycling, and swimming), but they’ve been catching up with other fitness trackers and sleep trackers in recent years.

Reason to Buy: Garmin announced a partnership with the University of Kansas Medical Center and incorporated improvements to offer sleep data into their newest product models in 2018. They’re on par with Fitbit in terms of sleep data, offering insight into stages of sleep and an REM score, but the Garmin doesn’t offer the actionable insights that Fitbit does in its phone app. If you feel comfortable interpreting the sleep data that a wearable device gives you on your own, this is a good option.

AutoSleep

AutoSleep is a top-rated app that uses the Apple Watch’s sensors or your iPhone to follow body movements, which allows it to determine when you fall asleep and wake. It shows you data like time asleep, a sleep rating, and your average heart rate. While wearing the Apple Watch to bed isn’t required for this app, it’s recommended. An Android version is not available.

Reason to Buy: This app’s combination of accuracy and analytics set it apart from the competition. It works whether you’re wearing your Apple Watch or not, so you can get meaningful data with minimal effort, although only the time you’ve slept — not the quality of your rest — will be tracked on night’s you don’t wear your watch to bed. The app’s adoption of the ring concept to display data is reminiscent of Apple’s Activity app, making the data visualization familiar and easy to understand.

SleepScore App

Of the sleep tracking apps available, SleepScore is our favorite. It’s compatible with iPhones 6 and newer and a few select Android phones. Created by SleepScore Labs, SleepScore allows you to set sleep goals, see sleep stage data, and read customized sleep advice. It uses your phone’s microphone and speaker to detect your sleeping patterns, so no wearable is required. Both a free and a paid version are available. 

Reason to Buy: SleepScore is the most intuitive of the sleep apps. It provides users with a simple SleepScore (1 to 100) and detailed recommendations for improving sleep. The free version allows you to store seven days of data, but for $50 annually, the paid version tracks your sleep long-term. For people who love data, you’ll find a lot of it in this tracker. It’s our favorite app if you’re looking for clear, actionable ways to improve your sleep.

Sleep Cycle

Originally marketed as an alarm clock, Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep on your Android or iPhone device using motion detection. You’ll have the option to place your phone on your mattress or wear your Apple Watch to bed. It provides less data than SleepScore, but this may be a pro for some.

Reason to Buy: The Sleep Cycle interface is minimalistic and easy to read. The simple interface makes it a great option for individuals prone to information overload. The amount of data isn’t overwhelming, and that’s a good thing. The sleep-lifestyle correlations, like diet and exercise, like whether you ran or consumed caffeine, are displayed in a way that anyone can figure out. This tracker isn’t designed to provide advice or guidance, but it’s available on both iPhone and Android at $30 annually for the premium version, which you’ll need to reap meaningful benefits.

Withings Sleep Tracking Pad and App

Withings’ Sleep tracker is an Android- and iPhone-compatible app that tracks your sleep by sliding a Withings pad under your mattress. It pairs with some smart home devices, like Alexa, and provides stats on sleep duration, sleep quality, snoring patterns, heart rate, and interruptions.

Reason to Buy: While this app requires the purchase of Withings’ $99 sleep pad, the setup is basic and you can get the accuracy of sleep tracking that a wearable device provides without wearing one. Just slide the pad under your mattress and connect it to your phone. The app doesn’t provide tailored advice for improving your sleep, but the sleep score, snore detection, and other detailed data can teach you about the parameters that affect your sleep quality the most.

Polar M430

The Polar M430 is a wearable that goal-driven runners and heavy exercisers tend to love, and it comes with the Polar Plus Sleep System. The Polar uses the watch’s accelerometer to give you insightful feedback like sleep time, interruptions, and more. The compatible app is available for iOS and Android.

Reason to Buy: If you’re a dedicated runner or exerciser who’s devoted to Polar wearables, the sleep tracking comes as an added benefit. The sleep insights are laid our clearly in the Polar app and the design fuses well, as the reports help you visualize how your activities and your rest impact one another. You’ll be able to rate your sleep and measure it over time against your workouts, so if you’re an avid exerciser, this could be a great option.

Sleeptracker 24/7

This iPhone-only app checks all the boxes with regard to tracking and data: when you’re asleep, when you wake, body motions, heart rate, sleep quality, and more. It uses your iPhone camera to measure resting heart rate and can even record snore sounds, sleep talking, and sleep apnea.

Reason to Buy: The company claims that the app is within 90% accuracy of professional sleep monitors used in sleep clinics. What we like most about this app is that it’s an “always-on” sleep tracker, so you can gather data throughout the day rather than just at night. For example, it has the option to account for naps and power naps, the data for which can be integrated together to give you a full analysis of your sleeping behavior. The app also comes with a variety of alarm sounds and 24 white noises to help you sleep.

Sleep++

Another app that works in conjunction with your Apple Watch to gather data, Sleep++ has a minimalist design that does away with the clutter. It also has features to save battery life on your watch as you sleep.

Reason to Buy: The minimalist approach of Sleep++ is a great thing in a sea of apps that sometimes provide too much data. You’ll get the bare minimum of data that you need to make smarter sleep routine decisions. Most apps that pair with the Apple Watch will drain your wearable’s battery throughout the night, but Sleep++ help combat this. Simply put your watch in Airplane Mode and the app will still be able to collect data as you sleep.


How to Pick the Right Sleep Tracker for You

Types of Sleep Trackers

So should you integrate an app with a wearable you own, purchase a wearable, or rely on an app for sleep data? It depends. 

Wearables currently vary in their ability to track sleep natively. If you purchase an Apple Watch, you’ll need to download an accompanying iPhone app to track sleep, some of which may charge a monthly or annual fee. Other wearables, like Fitbit, track sleep natively and communicate the data via an accompanying apps. The advantage of wearables is that they track your sleep automatically—no setup required before bed. If you already use a wearable with sleep-tracking capabilities, you may be perfectly happy sticking with what you have.

If having a wearable on disturbs your sleep, a non-wearable method of sleep tracking will work best for you. You can choose to download one of the apps above that doesn’t require a wearable for tracking or research alternative devices, like the Withings Pad. The biggest advantage of sleep-tracking phone apps over wearables are the extra features, like lulling sleep sounds and smart alarms. 

Considerations for Functionality and Features

When selecting a tracker, consider the visualization of the data. Some people prefer a minimalist layout whereas others want the option to know as much as possible about their sleep habits. Whichever level of information you prefer, make sure the app you choose displays it coherently.

Also, consider that sleep tracking should feel less like a chore and more like a service. If the app or wearable requires you to complete a long series of steps before it will track, there are simpler options available.

Integrations are another factor to consider. If you’re an Apple user, does the app share its data with the Health app? Integration can give you a more holistic view of your health if you also track other data points, like steps, workouts, and food intake. 

Considerations for Technology

Sleep tracking apps, devices, and wearables use a variety of technology to track sleep. As such, the accuracy also varies. Researchers warn that some sleep-tracking tech could provide inaccurate data and worsen insomnia by making consumers obsessed with their sleep. Of course, no tracker will meet the gold-standard of sleep tracking labs, which measure eye activity, brain activity, and more but, in general, the more details an app or device measures, the more likely it is to provide accurate data about your rest. 

Considerations for Price and Buying Experience

When evaluating the app or device that’s best for you, consider the price and business model. The Apple Watch, for example, is not only an expensive one-time investment, but you may be required to pay a monthly fee for a compatible sleep tracking app. 

If you opt to let your phone track your sleep, decide whether you want to get simple data from a free app or pay monthly for one. Also, if you envision tracking your sleep over months or years, you’ll want to keep in mind whether the app you select is poised for long-term success. If the company fails, the app will be taken off of the app store—along with your sleep data.

Conclusion

A sleep tracking app or device drives home the importance of sleep quality and healthy patterns, like a consistent bedtime and wake time. They can also underscore the effects that factors like alcohol and exercise can have on sleep patterns. If you’re looking for a tool to understand your sleep health, use the list of our top 10 sleep tracking devices and apps to get started in your search. Keep in mind that, like all technology, sleep trackers are subject to innovative updates from year to year that make them more accurate, user-friendly, and valuable. As the field broadens and the quality of these devices and apps improves, check back to see our updated recommendations.


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