Sleep Tracker Roundup: The Best Sleep Trackers of 2016

Sleep tracking is becoming more popular than ever these days. And with good reason, too. According to the NIH, over 60 million Americans have chronic or intermittent sleep disorders that adversely effect their health.

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.

If you are looking to purchase the best sleep tracker for sleep monitoring, their are a few important considerations and features you should look for.

Sleep Tracker Guide - How To Find The Best Sleep Monitor

When you lie down to sleep at night, your sleep tracking device will detect a prolonged period of stillness and will begin to actively monitor your sleeping patterns. A typical sleep tracker will utilize a variety of different methods to ensure an accurate measurement. There are quite a few different types of sleep trackers, and each of them in turn will utilize different technologies to monitor your sleep. Here's a quick list of the methods and styles of each.

​Sleep Analyzing Technolgies

Accelerometers

The most common sensor type is the accelerometer. These sensors operate by utilizing an embedded motion detector that monitor your movement during the night. So for instance - if you wear your device to bed, it will record simple things like how many times your turned over during the night, got out of bed, or moved the covers. Accelerometers are cheap and abundant and are most commonly found in devices like the Fitbit trackers and smart phones.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Heart rate monitors where once bulky and expensive. However, the price has recently come down on these devices, and they can now be found included in many different fitness trackers or even as stand alone units. The most common​ type of heart rate monitors are chest strap style sensors, which are worn over your chest and sit over the heart area. These devices are better suited to people who are looking to track their fitness levels, as they are rather bulky and can be uncomfortable to wear to bed. However, there are now a few less invasive methods of heart rate monitoring which are much better suited to those who are looking to keep track of their sleep. Here's a quick rundown:

  1. ​Optical Heart Rate Sensors were first introduced on the basis peak. Essentially, these devices operate by shining a light into your wrist and monitoring the passage of blood through the capillaries. They have the advantage of being very unobtrusive and are pretty accurate. The downside is that you will often have to wear the wrist band pretty snugly to get an accurate measurement. This can make the device uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
  2. Ballistocardiography sensors utilize a more straightforward method of heart rate monitoring. They operate by simply monitoring the speed at which the heart contracts and expands. As the heart go's through its normal rhythms, it will force blood in and out of the vessels with each beat. Ballistic heart rate sensors are able to monitor this rhythm and give an accurate measurement of your heart rate.
  3. Bio Impedance tracking is the latest in heart rate monitoring technology. This type of sensor operates by tracking the electrical signals generated across the the skin, which is otherwise known as galvanic skin response. In other words, the surface of your skin emits a tiny electric current and the sensor is able to read this current. The accuracy of this sensor type is still up for debate, but it is easily the smallest and least intrusive of the heart rate monitors. Take a look at this article here to learn more about bio metric sensors and how they function.

Radio Waves

Radio waves can be used to measure your heart rate and sleep cycles, albeit a bit less accurately. The upside to this method is that it is completely unobtrusive - you don't have to have a sensor touching your body. At the time of this writing there is only one device that has this capability - the S+ by Resmed.​

Most of the more pricey dedicated sleep trackers will have some form of heart rate sensor that sits on or near the body in order to measure heart rate. The takeaway here is that measuring heart rate is a more accurate way of tracking sleep since the body's heart rate will change when entering the different stages of rest.

Product
Main Features
What Users Say
Price to Expect
Our RATE
Fitbit One Super accurate wrist style wireless tracker; very popular among fitness buffs; all-around device that includes sleep pattern trackingExcellentMid-Range4.5 / 5
UP4Among the first jawbone products with embedded bio feedback sensors; all-around device; monitors sleep patterns tracks via heart rateGoodMid-Range3.5 / 5
Misfit Shine Device is a wearable necklace; sleep tracker also used as wristband or stand-alone unit; beats competitors on versatilityGoodLow3.5 / 5
Basis Health Tracker Attractive wearable tracker that tracks running, calories burnt, food consumption, heart rate & REM sleep; has shorter battery life but priced lower than other smart watchesGoodVery High3.5 / 5
SenseDevice is designed like a sphere and comes with a "sense pill" that works as an accelerometer; monitors sleeping patterns, light, sound, temperature, air quality & humidity Very GoodMid-Range4.0 / 5
Sleepace Reston Bluetooth mattress sensor in sleek design; that comes as a strip laid under the sheet; easy set up just like other plug and play itemsGoodMid-Range3.5 / 5
BEDDIT SMART 2.0 Tracks all standard sleeping metrics & reads out sleep scores every morning; features coaching tips & uses adhesive to attach to mattress; sensor is non-obtrusiveVery GoodMid-Range4.0 / 5
Withings Aura 2-sensor all in one solution for sleep tracking - one under the sheet, the other on the nightstand; features a soothing light that goes along with the emitted sounds; works for 2 people on same bedVery GoodHigh4.0 / 5
SLEEP CYCLE iOS app that records different sleep levels with active sleep monitoring algorithm; customizable - has different sortable graphs; ability to do detailed sleep analysisGoodLow3.5 / 5
SleepBot Solid sleep tracking iOS app keeping track of basic sleeping patterns; utilizes a microphone to monitor noise levels within the room; features intuitive interface, app is 100% free, comes with a web appGoodfree from iOS4.0 / 5

Device Types

There are quite a few different devices that can be utilized to quantify ones sleep. Each of them have pros and cons, and some may be better suited to people who are looking for a more casual approach to their sleep tracking.​

​Smart Phones

​Many smart phones such as the iPhone and Galaxy series have the ability to utilize the myriad of sleep tracking apps available on their respective app stores. The reason they are able to do this is because most smart phones have an embedded acceleormter for tracking movement. This can be utilized with a dedicated sleep tracking app to record your activity during the night. Since smart phones only have acceleromters, they can only detect and record your nightly movement. You wont get as much of a detailed analysis as you would with a dedicated unit. 

​Fitness Trackers & Smart Watches

Fitness trackers come in many different shapes and sizes. The most common ones are worn via a clip and can be placed virtually anywhere. More dedicated types such as the Fitbit Charge HR or the Basis Peak can are worn on the wrist and have the ability monitor many different metrics, such as your current elevation, calories burned, and even your heart rate. The great thing about may fitness trackers is that they will oftentimes be able to monitor your sleep automatically - that is, they will begin tracking your sleep when you lie down and drift off. This saves having to fiddle with complicated set up options when right before you go to bed.

The subset of fitness trackers is the modern day smart watch. Smart watches function similar to a high end fitness tracker when it comes to sleep tracking. The bonus is that many smart watches often come with a myriad of extra different features - the most notable of which are things like on board GPS tracking, different sports tracking modes, expanded connectivity options, and of course embedded heart rate sensors. Smart watches make great fitness trackers but they oftentimes don't have the best battery life, which can be an issue for someone who is looking to wear one all night.

Dedicated Sleep Trackers

Sleep tracking has advanced to the point of becoming its own sub section of the quantified self movement. This means that there are now a few different devices on the market that are solely dedicated to monitoring your sleep. Stand alone sleep trackers like the Withings Aura or the Beddit Smart are able to track your sleeping metrics via a desk unit and a mattress sensor. This type of sleep tracker is for people who are really looking to drill down into their sleeping data. As a bonus, many of these units can monitor different things about your sleeping area, such as the ambient light/noise, relative humidity, and even the air quality.

Quantifying Sleep Levels

Lastly, many different sleep trackers will have the ability to give a few different types of readouts depending on the level of sleep you are in. Here's a quick list.

Light/NERM Sleep

Nerm sleep makes up the largest portion of a typical sleep cycle. This is a more slow, relaxed type of sleep. 

REM Sleep

REM sleep stands for rapid eye movement sleep. So named because the eyes move about involuntarily in different directions. This tends to occur at random intervals during the sleep cycle and makes up the smallest portion. This is the state where dreaming occurs.

Deep Sleep

Some trackers will have a deep sleep readout. This just means that you were moving less during that period. Most of the sleep tracking apps that I have tested mix the deep sleep and REM sleep portion into one.

A word of caution​

Keep in mind, most acceletometer based sleep trackers do not have the ability to measure the different stages of a nights rest. This can be a detriment to someone who is looking to iron out their sleeping issues, as this type of data is crucial to understanding your sleeping patterns. Most sleep trackers that can monitor your heart rate will include this function, so that is a good place to look if you want a detailed readout from the device you purchase.

With all of the different offerings on the market it can be a challenge to find a sleep tracker that has a decent sleep tracking function. I recommend a dedicated device, rather than one that is more multi function oriented. 

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The Best Sleep Trackers of 2016

Rather than do the usual top roundup, I went with a more holistic approach this time. Since there are so many different ways to track sleep, I felt this way would be more accurate. I have included the top devices of for each category: that of fitness trackers, smart watches, stand alone units, and smart phone apps. Click the button to reveal the content of each category. Without further ado, lets take a look at some of the best sleep trackers of 2016.

Best Fitness Trackers For Sleep Monitoring

Best Smart Watches For Sleep Tracking

Best Stand Alone Sleep Trackers

Best Smart Phone Sleep Tracking Apps

Honorable Mentions

These 2 devices below have to be one of the more unique approaches to tracking sleep that I have seen. The S+ in particular is quite intriguing in that it is a desk top style unit that monitors your vitals via radio waves. ​I cant wait to see more from this company.

  • S+
  • Video Review

The S+ by Resmed is an interesting contraption. In addition to the impressive array of vitals it measures, it boasts a personalized feedback system that syncs with your smartphone and is supposed to help you achieve better sleep cycles. One notable features is its "relax to sleep", which plays sounds that are specifically designed to help you relax. Full Review>

Pros: This is one of the more accurate "no contact" devices I have seen.

Cons: The app for this ate up a lot of our mobile data.

  • Luna
  • Video Review

At the time of this writing this product hasent been released yet. but I like the idea of a "smart mattress". The manufacturer claims it is able to monitor all of your vitals and sync wirelessly to your phone just like any other sleep tracker. I cant wait to see what the future holds for this product.

Table

And just in case you didn't want to go through all of the above data, here is a quick comparison table to make things easier. I have listed each tracker with 3 things in mind: detailed sleep tracking( REM, light, deep, etc), heart rate monitor support, and automatic sleep tracking.​

Comparison Table

​Metric

Fitbit One

Up4

Misfit Shine

Basis Peak

Sense

Reston

Beddit

Aura

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Bot

Motion X

S+

Detailed

​  

   ✓

​   ✓

​   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

​   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

HRM

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

​   ✓

Auto

  

​   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

   ✓

Conclusion

Sleep tracking functions will typically be included in many fitness bands. These types of functions are not unique to a specific device, however as you have no doubt seen, their are many stand alone options. For the stand alone units my pick would have to go to the Aura. The aura was the most accurate sleep tracker I have tested. 

Although it was not the best sleep tracking device, the runner up in this instance is the UP4. This device is pretty much the best jack of all trades fitness tracker I have ever seen. It even has the ability to do mobile payments. How cool is that?