In the quest for better sleep, more and more people are turning to sleep trackers to monitor their nightly patterns. From checking the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep once your head hits the pillow to measuring the amount of sleep you’re getting, the information gathered can be illuminating. Some devices record your overnight body temperature and heart rate.
But with so many trackers available today and more in the pipeline about to hit the market, it can be difficult to pinpoint which features will help you better understand your sleep. Here’s what to look for when purchasing one of these devices, and catch a glimpse of where this technology is headed next.
The first generation of sleep trackers basically told you one thing: how many hours you slept each night. But now, consumers have come to expect more, and brands are offering additional features to distinguish themselves from competitors and to keep users engaged with these devices.
“Sleep-tracking manufacturers have become more aware that they need to bring something beneficial to the user besides just a measurement of sleep,” says Roy Raymann, PhD, vice president of Sleep Science & Scientific Affairs at SleepScore Labs. “It has been a wakeup call for the industry. Consumers have been tracking their sleep and have a picture of how much they sleep, so now what?”
Answering that question, some wearable trackers like the FitBit Alta HR and Fitbit Versa offer data on a user’s sleep stats versus others in a similar demographic. Along with increasing sleep awareness, the ability to compare sleep results with peers makes tracking the behavior a bit more fun.
Another tracker, the Motiv Ring, slips on your finger like a piece of jewelry. It specializes in detecting periods of restlessness overnight, letting the user know when they were most active. This can be revealing information for those who suffer from restless leg syndrome and insomnia.
While it’s easy to get caught up in all the fancy features of a sleep tracker, pay attention to how comfortable it feels (if it’s a wearable device) above anything else. Otherwise, you won’t use it.
Fortunately, the trackers come in multiple shapes, sizes, and styles. Along with wearable wristbands and head gear, you can choose from bedside trackers that use echolocation, a reflection technique that fires out ultra-low power radio waves to track breathing patterns, so you can sleep device-free. Other versions feature between-the-sheets thin bands that record data without ever touching your body. Regardless of style, almost all of these sleep trackers now connect to an app so you can download data and keep track of your sleep progress.
Sleep trackers have come a long way in recent years, and Raymann says in the future, they’ll be able to tell you everything a sleep lab could. “The next wave will likely be the integration of sleep technology in your bed, bedroom devices, and mobile devices,” he says. “Some brands are already doing this, using sonar technology to turn your mobile device into a sleep improvement system.”
If you’re not sure which sleep tracker is best for your nighttime needs, compare each device’s features to find out which ones offer you the most of what you want. You might want to try them out. Many retailers also accept returns if the product doesn’t work out for you. Just be sure that you understand their return policies, terms and exclusions before you buy it.