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The wearable Oura Ring is a small and lightweight device designed to fit snugly around your index or middle finger. Don’t let the size fool you, though — it’s packed with sensors that measure a wide range of body metrics associated with fitness, sleep, and readiness for physical activities.
As a sleep tracker alone, the Oura Ring is impressive. Each morning, you’ll receive a score based on how well you slept the previous night. The ring calculates this score based on how much time you spend in each of the four stages of your sleep cycle, along with heart rate and heart rate variability, core temperature, and other body metrics that change during sleep.
Oura recommends wearing the device for at least two weeks to establish a baseline for your individual metrics. I wore my Oura Ring for three weeks and tested how it felt and performed during a wide range of activities. The ring generates an impressive — and, at times, intimidating — amount of data, and I was also impressed with the app and its metric delivery. That said, the wearable design is better suited for certain daily and nightly activities, and less so for others.
Below, I’ll break down the Oura Ring’s essential functions and how to properly use it. I’ll also cover the nuts and bolts of buying and setting up the device.
What Does the Oura Ring Do?
The Oura Ring, created by the Finland-based health tech company Oura Health in 2016, is a comprehensive health tracker that monitors a host of metrics both during the day and while you sleep. The goal is to provide a holistic overview of your activities over a 24-hour span and to determine how physically and mentally prepared you are for the day ahead.
The current version of the Oura Ring, released in 2021, is a third-generation model. According to Caroline Kryder, Oura’s science communications lead, the biggest change to the third-gen model is two new LED colored sensors. These additional colors expand the ring’s abilities for tracking heart rate, blood oxygen, and other body metrics.
Other new features of the third-gen Oura Ring include:
- More temperature sensors: The Oura Ring is now equipped with seven temperature sensors to provide more accurate readings than past versions of the device.
- Period planning: Thanks to the added temperature sensors, the Oura Ring can now predict different stages of a menstrual cycle.
- Activity detection: In the past, users needed to manually start their Oura Ring to track activities. The third-gen model automatically detects more than 30 different daily activities.
Oura Sleep Tracking
We’ve long known that the amount of time you spend in each stage of your sleep cycle is crucial to overall sleep quality. However, many of today’s sleep trackers either don’t monitor this metric or produce results that can be vague, if not downright inaccurate.
The Oura Ring uses body temperature, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and heart rate variability, and breathing rate to determine which stage you’re in at any given moment while you sleep — and how long you spend in that stage before transitioning to the next. The ring itself does not have any sort of screen or interface, so you’ll need to view your data in the free Oura app.
Sleep stages break down as follows:
- NREM 1: Your first stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep is also usually the shortest, typically lasting up to five minutes. Your heartbeat and breathing rates begin to slow down once you nod off, but this is still considered light sleep.
- NREM 2: Also light sleep but deeper than NREM 1, this stage is marked by steady decreases to heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature. This is usually the longest stage of your sleep cycle.
- NREM 3: Deep sleep, also called slow-wave sleep, begins during this stage. Heart rate and breathing rate decrease to their lowest levels of the night. Deep sleep is crucial for alertness and mental and physical recovery.
- REM: The fourth and final stage is dramatically different from the other three. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, your breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure levels spike. This is also when most dreams occur, and your body becomes completely still.
Using these bodily changes that occur throughout the sleep cycle, the Oura Ring can accurately gauge your current stage. The ring combines the first two stages as “light sleep.” It also monitors sleep efficiency, or how much time you spend asleep after initially nodding off. Other metrics include latency, or how long it takes you to fall asleep after getting into bed, and “restfulness,” which tracks how much time you spend awake or moving around in bed.
These metrics all contribute to the sleep score generated each morning, which follows a 100-point scale.
- 85 to 100 is considered optimal. This means all your metrics appear reasonably healthy. You even receive a crown icon that shows up on the app that day.
- 70 to 84 means your sleep was good, but not great. You’re adequately rested and prepared for most daily activities, but there are still some things you can work on to improve your overall sleep quality.
- Less than 70 indicates your sleep could use some major improvement.
The Oura Ring also has a few resources to help you raise your daily sleep score. One is the Bedtime Guidance tool, which displays the optimal time you should go to sleep that night based on your recent sleep scores and the activities you’ve engaged in that day. The app’s library also includes tutorials for relaxing and optimizing sleep hygiene, guided breathing exercises, and other helpful programs.
One last sleep-tracking feature of the Oura Ring is “nap detection.” If you snooze during the day, the amount of time you spend asleep will contribute to the amount of sleep you’ve received during a 24-hour period. Napping doesn’t necessarily boost your sleep score, since most naps don’t involve all stages of your sleep cycle, but your sleep duration does contribute to your readiness score, which I’ll discuss further below.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Oura Ring’s sleep-tracking capabilities — especially for a tracker this small. The sensors seem to work well, especially with improvements to the newest generation of the device. My sleep score generally lined up with how I felt in the morning and throughout the day. The data can be a bit overwhelming, but once I figured out how to interpret the scores, graphs, and other calculations, I was grateful for the wealth of information.
Oura Activity Tracking
The Oura Ring’s activity tracking power is equally robust. A built-in 3D accelerometer uses the movements of your hand to interpret what the rest of your body is doing, and it tracks metrics accordingly based on your current activity. The accelerometer can also measure leg movements, so the Oura Ring is a reliable step counter.
There are complex algorithms that go into how the ring interprets movement based on intensity threshold. These allow the sensors to not only determine how hard you’ve pushed yourself during an activity, but also to ignore movements that don’t normally occur during that activity. So, for example, you won’t receive weird data if you wave to someone.
I mentioned earlier that the third-gen Oura Ring has extra LEDs. These allow the device to track new metrics, including:
- Daytime heart rate: Real-time monitoring lets you check your current heart rate at any given time. You can also follow graphs that show how your heart rate rises and falls throughout the day, which can be used to build healthy routines.
- Workout heart rate: In addition to the daytime heart rate, you can isolate heart rate tracking during workouts and separately view these graphs. These readings also show how your daily exercise impacts sleep patterns.
- Restorative time: Relaxation is as crucial to the body as activity. The restorative time metric measures heart rate and body temperature to determine when your body is completely relaxed. You can use this tool to plan breaks throughout your day.
These metrics, along with breathing rate and body temperature, are used to calculate your daily activity score. Like the sleep score, the activity score uses a 100-point scale and provides feedback using the same ranges of 85 to 100, 70 to 84, and below 70.
Other metrics tracked in the Oura app include:
- Activity vs. inactivity: The Oura Ring monitors periods of inactivity, both during a 24-hour period and on the hour. Sleep and rest periods don’t factor into this metric. If you achieve an optimal amount of activity every hour you’re awake during the day, you’ll receive a high “Move Every Hour” score.
- Daily goals: The app allows you to plan your day in terms of exercise and activity. This metric follows a seven-day rolling window.
- Training frequency and volume: Using the same rolling seven-day window, the device measures the number of times you exercise at a medium to high intensity level. It also monitors all of your activities during this period and compares them to the average person of the same age and gender. Both of these metrics are based on an estimate of the calories you’ve burned from different types of activities.
- Recovery time: This refers to the number of rest days you’ve had in the past week. Rest days aren’t days of complete inactivity. Rather, they are days when you don’t reach thresholds for medium- and high-intensity activity based on your individual baseline.
Again, the capabilities of this small ring are remarkable, and the amount of physical activity data it tracks is somewhat intimidating. The first two weeks were a mixed bag in terms of tracking accuracy, but I noticed more consistency after my baseline was established.
I should point out one aspect of the Oura Ring that I personally didn’t enjoy. Most of my workouts consist of weightlifting, rowing, pullups, and other activities that involve gripping things with my hands. The Oura Ring is far from bulky, but it was still a hindrance during my workouts. I eventually stopped wearing it when I exercised, and as a result, I missed out on quite a lot of data that would have been relevant to my overall health.
If your workouts aren’t hand-centric like mine, then your experience will probably be quite different. I could see the Oura Ring being particularly useful for people who run, swim, or engage in other types of cardio exercises. On the other hand, you might find the ring more comfortable for lifting and rowing than I did. But based on my personal experience, the Oura Ring has some limitations as a workout companion.
Oura Readiness Tracking
Your sleep score and activity score are used to generate a readiness score, which predicts how prepared your body is for the day ahead. Specifically, the readiness score is based on the following:
- Daytime, workout, and resting heart rate
- Lowest overnight resting heart rate
- Physical activity from the previous day
- Activity balance
- Body temperature
- Sleep quality
- Recovery index
Like other Oura data categories, readiness score is based on a 100-point scale. A score of 70 to 84 is good and indicative of adequate measures across these metrics. Higher than 85 means you are ready for more challenging activities.
If the score is lower than 70, this means you need to improve your recovery by finding a middle ground between vigorous activity and inactivity. For example, rather than pushing yourself to the limit, you could try to integrate yoga, light walking, or stretching into your daily routine. The idea here is to take things slow without being completely inactive.
Lastly, I want to mention a feature called Rest Mode. You can activate this mode when something interferes with your daily plans, such as an illness, physical injury, or jet lag. Rest Mode shouldn’t be used for days when you just feel like hunkering down and being inactive for no reason. More importantly, Oura stresses that you shouldn’t use the function to diagnose an illness or health condition.
As you might expect, navigating all these data points and programs can be challenging at first. Oura’s online guide to the ring’s different functions is a must-read for first-time users.
How Does the Oura Ring Look and Feel?
I’ve talked about how uncomfortable the Oura Ring felt during certain exercises. The rest of the time, I barely noticed it at all. This was true during the day and while I slept. So in terms of overall comfort, I’d give the Oura Ring a favorable rating.
One important factor to consider is which finger you want to use. The device is technically designed for either the index or middle finger, but the goal should be a comfortably snug fit. After placing an order, you’ll receive a free kit with sample rings in several sizes. I personally found that the most comfortable size fit snugly on my ring finger, so that’s the size I chose. This turned out to be perfectly fine.
As Oura’s Caroline Kryder told me, some users even wear the device on their thumb or pinkie because that size provides the best fit. This may result in more data gaps during the day, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The index and middle fingers provide the most accurate heart rate readings, so either of these fingers are encouraged over the others.
Here are a few other things to know about using the Oura Ring:
- Weight: The Oura Ring weighs about 5 grams, so it’s comparable to a nickel.
- Appearance: Four colors are available. Shiny black and silver cost $299, while gold and matte black are $399. This is the only difference between the two pricing tiers.
- Battery life: The battery lasts about four to seven days when fully charged. Better yet, it only takes 20 to 80 minutes to charge. A more robust battery is one of the third-gen device’s new implementations. A free charger is included with your purchase.
- Water resistance: The Oura Ring is water-resistant up to about 330 feet. This makes the device suitable for swimming or snorkeling, but Oura does not recommend submerging it in water for more than 12 hours or wearing the ring for deep-water activities like scuba diving.
- App syncing: The Oura Ring is compatible with Apple Health and Google Fit, allowing you to gain access to even more metrics that can help improve your daily routines.
- Time changes: If you travel and end up in a different time zone, the Oura Ring will synchronize to local time as soon as it is connected to your Bluetooth. This prevents inconsistencies in your daily metrics.
Sleep Foundation Special Offer
Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Oura products
Buying the Oura Ring
Finally, here’s what to expect when you purchase the Oura Ring:
|Cost||The ring costs $299 or $399, depending on the color you choose. Each purchase includes a six-month subscription. After that, subscribers pay $5.99 per month. You can cancel the subscription, but pausing is not allowed.|
After using the Oura Ring for a certain amount of time, you may become eligible for a free lifetime membership. For example, second-gen ring users earned free lifetime membership if they upgraded to the third-gen device within a few weeks after its release.
|Shipping||Oura currently ships the device to more than 40 countries across the globe. The same shipping fee applies for all orders: $15, 15 euros, or an equivalent amount in local currency.|
Customers in locations outside the United States and European Union may need to pay additional import fees.
|Returns, Exchanges, and Warranty||You can return your functional, undamaged Oura Ring within 30 days of the delivery date. You may also exchange the device if you aren’t satisfied with the size. In either case, you’ll need to pay additional shipping charges. The return and exchange policy varies by location.|
The third generation of the Oura Ring is backed by a one-year limited warranty. The company will repair, replace, or issue a refund for any ring that doesn’t work properly due to a structural defect.
Battery performance isn’t included as a defect. You may need to replace the battery over the course of your Oura Ring’s lifespan.
The Bottom Line
The Oura Ring is a genuinely impressive device in terms of sleep and activity tracking. A wealth of data points, bonus resources to optimize your daily routine, and a user-friendly app set this device apart from a lot of other trackers on the market today. The upfront cost may be prohibitive to some, but a $5.99 monthly subscription fee is more palatable.
As I’ve mentioned, the Oura Ring is more suitable for certain activities than others. But I’ve found this to be true of a lot of wearable trackers, so this is more a disadvantage of the entire product category.
My advice: If you use your hands during exercise, give the Oura Ring a shot and see if it works for you. You might find it more comfortable than I did. But even with gaps in data from taking off my Oura Ring during workouts, I found the device highly useful for tracking my personal data during the day and night.