The Best Sleep Tech for Catching Your ZZZs

Sleep deprivation is a real problem. Studies show that not getting enough rest can lead to impaired cognitive skills and health risks like diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. And according to the Center for Disease Control, more than a third of American adults don’t manage to get the recommended seven hours of shut eye per night.

While our smartphones and their blue light get blamed for keeping us awake, there’s also a lot of tech out there intended to have the opposite effect. Of course, most of us won’t be buying $20,000 smart mattresses anytime soon, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get a better night’s rest.

How to Track Your Sleep

Gaining insight into your sleeping patterns is the first step toward identifying problems and fixing them. Fortunately, sleep is an increasingly popular metric among fitness trackers and smartwatches. When evaluating your options, look for a device with continuous heart rate monitoring and an SpO2 (or Pulse Ox) sensor that tracks your blood oxygen saturation levels as you sleep.

The Fitbit Charge 4 ticks both boxes. It tracks the amount of time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep each night. In the Fitbit app, you can see graphs showing your sleep stages throughout the night, how your sleeping heart rate fluctuated, and more. It also gives you a daily Sleep Score based on heart rate, the time you spend awake or restless, and your sleep stages. These insights can be a good wake-up call if you’re not getting enough shut eye. 

The Charge 4’s companion app also shows an Estimated Oxygen Variation graph indicating changes in your breathing as you slept. This information can potentially help you identify signs of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is another wearable that does an excellent job of tracking your sleep. It has a Pulse Ox sensor that gauges oxygen saturation in the blood. It reports on your respiration, including your average, highest, and lowest number of breaths per minute while sleeping. 

Smartwatches are also capable of sleep tracking, but they tend to be bulkier and have shorter battery lives, which makes them less likely to be used overnight. The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 will track your breathing, sleep duration, quality, and consistency when you wear it to bed. In the morning, it will give you a sleep quality score and may offer tips for improving your shut eye. 

The Apple Watch is finally got official sleep-tracking feature last year as part of watchOS 7. Considering sleep is such an important element of your overall health, this is a welcome addition, but the Series 6‘s 18-hour battery life means you might want to be charging it at night instead.

Many fitness trackers and smartwatches also let you set silent alarms so they will wake you up with a gentle vibration on your wrist, a handy feature if you sleep with someone or have roommates and thin walls. You can find this feature on the Apple Watch, Charge 4, and Vivoactive 4.

If wearing a tracker on your wrist to bed is too uncomfortable, the second-generation Google Nest Hub can monitor your sleep from a bedside table. The $99 smart display features a Google Soli motion sensing chip that creates an invisible, contactless tracking bubble around the person sleeping closest to the device. It can detect movements large and small—such as when you get up to use the bathroom, take a sip of water, roll over, or even breathe—all without a camera or requiring you to wear a device to bed. 

Similarly, the SleepScore Max is another no-contact sensor that sits on your nightstand, tracks your sleep, and offers advice for improving it.

Another option is to throw out your old spring mattress and upgrade to a high-tech smart bed like the SleepNumber 360, the Eight Sleep Smart Mattress, or the Magni Smartech. But what do these smart mattresses offer over their traditional counterparts?

For starters, they have sensors that can measure your movement, respiration, and heart rate. They can even pick up sound to detect when you’re snoring. Then, depending on your sleep patterns and preferences, they can adjust firmness or softness, or even elevate your head (to stop snoring). Some SleepNumber 360 models can warm your feet, and the Eight Sleep can warm up each side of the bed independently. The Magni Smartech even features full-body massage and chromatherapy (color therapy) lights.

The other component is a companion app, where you can view your sleep data and a score judging the quality of your rest. This information can help you determine what is and isn’t working, so you can adjust your lifestyle accordingly. You may, for instance, notice that you sleep worse on the days you drink coffee in the afternoon, or that you sleep better if you work out during the day.

The big catch with smart mattresses is that they cost a pretty penny. For a queen size, the SleepNumber 360 starts at around $999 and the Eight Sleep Smart Bed goes for $1,095. Meanwhile, the Magni Smartech shocked even jaded CES showgoers with its $20,000 price.

If you’re not much of a high roller, there are more reasonable options that work with your existing mattress. The $99.95 Withings Sleep is a thin pad that goes under your mattress and tracks your sleep cycles, heart rate, and snoring. It even lets you control compatible smart lights and thermostats by simply getting into and out of bed.

And if you’re worried about your little ones, they’re covered too. The Nanit Plus Camera is a baby monitor that can also track sleep patterns.

If noisy neighbors are your biggest problem, there are plenty of solutions that can drown out the noise.

Smart pillows like the REM-Fit Zeeq can play music and track your sleeping habits. You might also consider a pillow insert, like the Smart Nora. It contains a pump that inflates when a bedside companion device hears snoring.

And if waking up is your issue, try a smart alarm clock. There are plenty on the market, but our favorite nightstand companion is the Amazon Echo Show 5. It can wake you up in the morning, and offers a terrific selection of Alexa voice assistant and touch-screen features. Alexa can play soothing sounds, guided sleep meditations, restful music, or tell you a bedtime story to help you get to sleep. 

Before settling in for the night, you can try winding down with a relaxing meditation. The Core Meditation Trainer offers a selection of guided meditations designed to help you prep for sleep.

Tech can also help you make sure that your bedroom is a conducive to rest. Try using smart bulbs for smoothing lighting. Most color or ambient white bulbs will let you create a bedtime (or wake-up) routine. Since blue tones keep you up, you can adjust your lights to a warmer, yellower tone past a certain time. Likewise, you can program a gradual fade-in to intense blue-tone lighting that mimics natural daylight to slowly wake you up in the morning.

You also might consider springing for a smart thermostat or fan that you can control with your voice or phone so you don’t have to get up after you’re already comfy. The Dyson Pure Cool Link Air Purifier doubles as a smart fan and air purifier that can cool you and clean the air.

If all these solutions sound like too much effort or investment, rest assured there are countless mobile apps aimed at helping you sleep. They tend fall into one of three categories: tracker, smart alarm, and white noise.

Apple last year introduced some new sleep features for iPhone that can help you create a nightly routine, limit which apps you use at bedtime, automatically put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode before you drift off, and more.

SleepCycle is a free app that uses your phone’s microphone to track your sleep patterns, and will wake you up at an optimal time, when you’re in a light sleep.

For smart alarms, we can attest to the effectiveness of Alarmy (Sleep if U Can), available for both Android and iOS. If used properly (no cheating), there is no defeating it other than to delete it from your phone. The gist is that the app requires you to take a geo-specific photo, shake it furiously, or solve a math puzzle to turn it off. You can’t turn down the volume, you can’t hit snooze, and rebooting does nothing.

White noise apps are a dime a dozen, and for some people, a little white noise is all they need.

All in all, sleeping smarter doesn’t have to be rocket science. No matter your budget, there’s plenty sleep tech available to help you get a better night’s rest.

Victoria Song contributed to this story.

This content was originally published here.


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