Wellness isn’t just about doing cat yoga and drinking alt-milks – no, sometimes you just need a refreshing sleep. And choosing a top sleep monitor or tracker can be a good way to measure the quantity and quality of your slumber.
There are now plenty of different ways to track sleep, whether that’s through a bedside monitor, a wrist-worn wearable like a smartwatch or a device that fits into your mattress. All will give slightly different insights and personalised tips on how to improve your rest time, but the options from our picks below are worth exploring if you want to know exactly how you’re sleeping.
Read next: How does sleep tracking actually work?
We’ll be breaking down what to look for in a sleep tracker, how it manages to track your sleep accurately and the best sleep gadgets to buy – we’ve tested them all so you don’t have to.
Sleep tracking: Things to consider
Before you can pick the right sleep monitor to watch over your night, you need to know exactly what you want from one. The tech involved here is much more advanced than the smartphone apps that use the accelerometer to track movement under your pillow – and, as a result, things are much more accurate.
But what are the different types of dedicated sleep monitors? Older fitness trackers used wrist movement to track sleep, but now it’s all about heart rate monitoring – and companies like Fitbit and Withings are looking at your bpm during sleep to make assumptions not only about duration, but the sleep stage you’re in. That means logging the amounts of light, deep, REM and awake time, which can help decipher how you can go about feeling more rested.
As you can imagine, this is extremely handy for backing up how you feel when you wake up. If you’re feeling unrested, you can see if that matches up with the amount of deep sleep you logged, for example. Half-remember waking up a lot in the night? Check in on the wearable or companion app in the morning and you’ll be able to see just how many times you jolted awake, and what the total awake time totted up to.
Over time, depending on the ecosystem you buy into, these sleep reports should help you build a profile of your nights and give you an understanding of how much sleep you need, or things like when you need to wind down before bed.
However, this isn’t the only way to receive insights into your sleep stages – there are also sleep monitors that sit on your bedside table, using echolocation to track breathing patterns, as well as ones that slip under your mattress and use built-in sensors to get a grip on your sleep stages. There are positive and negatives to all methods. so read on below to explore them in more detail.
The best wearable sleep trackers
Fitbit Inspire HR
Buy now: Amazon | $94.98
If you’re looking for a sleep tracker that you’ll actually wear, Fitbit is the best choice right now. The first we’ll detail here is one from the company’s latest fitness tracker line, the Inspire family, though skip below if you want more of a smartwatch style.
There are two versions of the Inspire you can buy, but the slightly pricier HR version is the tracker we’d recommend – this helps unlock Fitbit Sleep Stages, giving you a more in-depth look at your sleep. It’ll use that monitor to track whether you’re in light, deep or REM sleep, giving you actionable insights the next morning.
Plus, you can compare your results against people of a similar demographic, as well as your average night’s sleep over the past 30 days. What we like about Fitbit’s sleep tracking is that it learns your behaviour over time, and will start giving you more and more personalised feedback for getting better rest.
(Fitbit provides sleep overviews, sleep stage breakdowns and a graph)
Tracking accuracy is as good as it gets from the wrist, and the intuitive companion app, where the sleep graphs are held, completes a package that makes this the best fitness tracker for sleep.
We’ll point out that the Inspire HR isn’t built for the future in the same way as the Fitbit Charge 3, since that features a tri-wavelength sensor that measures relative SpO2, and therefore the amount of oxygen in the blood. Having this tech built into its devices will eventually let Fitbit track sleep apnea, though this won’t be available through the Inspire HR.
Still, what you do get is a slim, customisable and feature-packed tracker that you won’t even know you’re wearing during sleep.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Inspire HR review
Buy now: Amazon | $169.95
The Fitbit Inspire HR is the ideal fitness tracker if you want to monitor your sleep from the wrist, but the Versa – and the Versa Lite Edition – is the best smartwatch to do so.
It’s worth noting that a successor, the Fitbit Versa 2, has now been announced, debuting new sleep tracking features that will arrive later on older devices.
It’s light on the wrist – just 38g – and won’t get in your way, thanks to that 34mm case size. Even better, it uses the same sleep tracking technology as the rest of the Fitbit line, meaning you don’t have to compromise on accuracy if you don’t just want a tracker.
So, Fitbit Sleep Stages are on board, meaning you can get a daily look at your light, deep, REM and awake times, and you can still check in on how your night compares to the last month and other people your age.
(The Fitbit app shows sleep history, stage breakdowns and detailed graphs)
Interestingly, unlike the the Inspire series, the Versa is built with the tri-wavelength sensor on board, making relative SpO2 tracking/sleep apnea detection something that should come to devices in the future.
Also keep an eye out for Sleep Score, a feature on the Versa 2 that should be coming to the Versa soon. When it goes live, it’ll offer a new way to interpret sleep data, also bringing insights around breathing quality and levels of oxygen in the bloodstream through the relative SpO2 sensor.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Versa review
Xiaomi Mi Band 4
Buy now: Amazon | $44.97
Xiaomi has been cracking out some really impressive fitness trackers for low prices in recent years, and its latest, the Mi Band 4, is a real gem. For roughly $40, you get a full range of tracking, including entirely capable sleep tracking.
The Mi Band 4 records sleep duration and gives you a sleep score, as well as some sleep quality analysis. This might mean it telling you to go to sleep earlier or acknowledging that your deep sleep was short. You’ll even get sleep regularity insights, giving you a sense of your average sleep data over the last week in comparison to other Mi Band 4 users.
But, importantly, that data is presented clearly and digestibly on Xiaomi’s companion app. You can see your trends, and look at individual nights’ data if preferred. It’s also accurate – sleeping with the Mi Band 4 and other trackers produced similar readings. For the price, and given its comfortable, lightweight body and 20-day battery life, the Mi Band 4 is a seriously persuasive option as a sleep tracker.
Wareable verdict:Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review
Apple Watch Series 4
Buy now: Amazon | $379.99
We’ll throw in a major caveat at the start: the Apple Watch cannot track sleep – at least not through the company’s own means. However, it makes the cut because of the sheer breadth of third-party apps that help you do so.
We’ve tested the best Apple Watch sleep tracker apps (yes, there really are that many), and all will give you slightly different results and experiences, but they’re all harnessing the same sensors to try bring you a look at your night’s sleep.
Accuracy isn’t quite as good as Fitbit’s, and the 1-2 day battery life means you’ll have to charge the smartwatch in the day if you want it to be working in the night, but this is still a very viable solution to track your sleep.
(Sleep++ is one of the top Apple Watch sleep tracker apps to download)
It’s also a comfortable smartwatch to wear to bed. Again, not quite as light or small as the Fitbit options – even if you get the 40mm variation – but not a device that feels alien to keep on. And that’s especially true if you’re wearing a light band, such as the sporty silicon or knitted loops.
And then there’s also everything else to consider with buying an Apple Watch – this is comfortably the best overall smartwatch you can buy in 2019. And even if native tracking isn’t available now, there has been recent speculation that an Apple Watch with built-in sleep tracking is in the works.
Wareable verdict: Apple Watch Series 4 review
Withings Steel HR Sport
Buy now: Amazon | $159.91
The first watch back under the Withings brand is also one that’s able to track your sleep, with the Steel HR Sport providing awake, light and deep sleep times, as well as giving you a look at how your heart rate varies through the night.
Unless you’re someone who hates having anything on their wrist in bed, the Steel HR Sport’s slim physique makes it comfortable to wear to sleep. There’s an alarm as well, so you can be woken by a gentle vibration on your wrist, instead of a blaring noise.
In our testing, accuracy wasn’t perfect, but not terribly far from Fitbit’s standard. The data is easy to digest, as shown above, but sadly the insights aren’t quite as meaty as we’d like. However, if you’re looking for something that’s good at the basics when it comes to sleep, the Steel HR Sport is by no means a bad call.
Wareable verdict: Withings Steel HR Sport review
Best bedside sleep monitors
Buy now: Amazon | $144.79
Since Apple bought Beddit, the future of the company’s devices has been in question, so we’ve been on the lookout for a replacement. The SleepScore Max tracks from your bedside table using echolocation (a reflection technique similar to what bats use), firing out ultra-low power radio waves to track our breathing patterns.
It’s a little pricier than other options, but it might be worth it for the excellent accuracy and actionable insights. Every morning, you’ll get a score based on the quality of your night’s sleep and then told whether you’re actually sleeping as well as you should be, and what you can do to get better rest.
(SleepScore’s app gives you a rating, tips and a hypnogram of your night)
As far as contactless sleep monitors go, the Max has delivered the best on accuracy. Our only criticisms are that it needs to be manually started each night and needs your phone to be running to work.
SleepScore has also launched a free app that also uses echolocation, so if you can’t get your hands on the Max, there’s an alternative on offer.
Wareable verdict: SleepScore Max review
S+ by ResMed
Buy now: Amazon | $58.88
The S+ is a pretty large device that sits on your night stand to track your sleep – and nothing sits under your mattress. Instead, it uses sonar, and those ultrasonic pulses can see straight through your blanket (and PJs) to monitor the movement of your chest as you breathe your way through the different stages of sleep. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
Our testing has shown the accuracy isn’t always as spot-on as we’d like when it comes to picking up movements, but where it excels is in its sleep coaching, asking you to tell the app how much caffeine you’ve had, how stressed you’ve been, and other factors that may affect your sleep.
This then feeds into the sleep tracking data, helping ResMed to coach you with better context. We also like the ‘Relax to Sleep’ function, which synchronises a sound with your breathing pattern to help you drift off.
The S+ can also use your respiratory rhythm to match the tempo of music it plays while lulling you to sleep. However, instead of using the speaker on the S+, it actually plays out of your phone, so you’ll need the handset nearby. That shouldn’t be a problem if it’s already charging on your night stand.
Wareable verdict: S+ sleep tracker review
Buy now: Amazon | $79.97
The Withings Sleep (formerly the Nokia Sleep, and before that the Withings Aura) slips under your mattress and collects your sleep data, and was recently released back under the company’s name after the buy-back.
It’s able to collect data like sleep duration, interruptions, light, deep and REM sleep, plus snoring, thanks to a built-in microphone. It can tap into the Withings app, giving you a coaching program to help reduce fatigue and improve health. A big new feature addition is that it now has the ability to detect the signs of sleep apnea.
While the accuracy wasn’t as good as Fitbit’s wrist-based options in our testing of the Nokia version, which is essentially the same as Withings’, we did find the Sleep Score to be genuinely useful.
It’s the most obvious way to find out whether you had a good night’s sleep, and will be in red if you had a bad night. The higher the score, the better night of sleep you had. Even better, the app helps you understand what makes a good night of sleep by telling you how to raise your Sleep Score.
We are still putting the Withings Sleep through its paces, but we have tested the Nokia Sleep, which, as we say, is the same device with the Nokia name on the front of it. If you want to an idea of what the Withings Sleep is going to be like to use, definitely go have a read of our Nokia Sleep review.