The Best Sleep Trackers, According To Experts

Monitoring devices like the Fitbit, Oura Ring and Apollo Neuro can help you better understand your sleep.
Keep track of your sleep patterns with this stress-management wristband, this sleek health-monitoring ring and an affordable fitness-watch.
Apollo, Goop, Best Buy
Keep track of your sleep patterns with this stress-management wristband, this sleek health-monitoring ring and an affordable fitness-watch.

Research suggests that a good portion of America is restless, with “20-35% of adults [reporting] consistent sleep difficulties,” according to research published in the journal Current Sleep Medical Reports. Whether it be disordered or insufficient, chronically affected sleep can have troubling real-life health consequences beyond just feeling sleepy during the day. Luckily, additional research reveals that external physical tracking devices can be a useful tool in unlocking quality rest.

“Sleep trackers work by monitoring some of our basic biology to try and determine two things,” explained Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a double board-certified psychiatrist of sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD. “One, if the person is asleep; two, what stage of sleep they are in.” This data is what you or a medical professional can use to decipher the lifestyle habits or environmental factors that could be impacting your sleep hygiene.

Dimitriu agrees that gathering information about the quality and quantity of your sleep can be a helpful first step towards reclaiming better rest. “[Sleep trackers] can provide feedback and reward for positive behaviors, such as reminders to start winding down, and to get to bed at an earlier time,“ Dimitriu said. “By heart-rate monitoring throughout the night, it also can be beneficial to see the effects of alcohol, a late exercise or a late dinner on sleep depth. I’m always surprised to see how disruptive a late dinner can be to my sleep.”

Wendy Troxel, a senior scientist at the the nonprofit think tank RAND Corporation and a scientific advisor’s aid for The Sleep Foundation, said that simply using a sleep tracking device shouldn’t be considered an intervention; rather, it’s what you choose to do with that information that can lead to improved sleep.

“[Sleep trackers] can be useful when used in conjunction with evidence-based behavioral strategies that have been proven to help sleep quality and quantity, such as maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule, as monitoring the behavior you are trying to change is a good way to track progress and maintain accountability,” Troxel told HuffPost.

Dr. David Rabin, a neuroscientist and board-certified psychiatrist based in California, said that having access to this kind of information from commercially available devices is really a step in personal empowerment. In the past, people would have to undergo professionally conducted sleep studies to get the same data.

“Sleep monitoring devices require people to take control of their own internal environment, to regain that sense of balance, and to facilitate a state of mind that enables you to make those healthy choices,” he said.

Ahead, find some expert-recommended sleep trackers that may help you harness a better night’s rest.

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A sleek and wearable health-monitoring ring that performs similarly to in-lab sleep tests
Dimitriu told HuffPost that even though brain wave monitoring (EEG) is one of the most reliable methods for tracking sleep stages, it's a component that is missing from many commercially available sleep trackers. The Oura Ring, which he personally uses, is one device that seems to perform comparatively to this method.

"The Oura ring has had head-to-head studies against an in-lab sleep test, and shown fairly good overlap in its ability to stage sleep," he said. "There's also no screen to be disruptive."

This non-intrusive and waterproof ring uses research-grade sensors to monitor everything from activity to stress levels. It sits on the finger, which can be a more ideal and accurate source for data gathering than other options that sit on the wrist. The connective app tracks and logs everything from sleep stages, key vital changes throughout sleep and bedtime routines in order to make personalized suggestions on when to wind down for sleep and achieve your sleep goals.
A science-backed wristband that can help manage stress
For Rabin, pinpointing patterns of stress is the key to achieving better sleep. “When we’re stressed, our autonomic nervous system gets out of balance, favoring the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and releasing stress hormones, [which] sends signals to our brain that we are under threat and need to be escaping danger, not relaxing and sleeping,” he said

He said the Apollo Neuro, a lightweight band that can be worn on the wrist or ankle, doesn’t rely on health tracking to improve sleep as much as it does on activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

“The device works by engaging with your sense of touch, delivering silent, soothing vibrations that help you feel safe and in control. It helps to kick on the ‘rest and digest’ functions of the autonomic nervous system which helps with sleep,” Rabin said.

With this device, you can choose from a variety of modes that are designed to feel subtle and natural to the body. The nuanced vibrations are meant to facilitate natural states of calm, clarity, focus and relaxation. The device also pairs with an app and even syncs to Apple Health to track biometrics and the effectiveness of the band.
A bedside sleep tracker that can monitor your sleep environment
Dr. Nilong Vyas, a sleep coach with The Sleep Foundation, recommended the SleepScore tracker, a bedside device that works with an app to take various clinical measurements of your sleep and your bedroom environment in particular.

“This is great if you do not want to wear the tracker, but it sits on a bedside table and gives a good summary of sleep quality in the morning. It helps to assess the overall sleeping environment and does not have a monthly subscription,” she said.

The sleek monitor detects light and sound changes in your bedroom while the companion app provides personalized insights and actionable advice on how to improve sleep based on the previous night’s readings. There’s even a customizable alarm that can help create optimal sleep and wake habits.
A cost-effective fitness tracker with a long battery life
“The Fitbit Inspire is great because it is cost-effective, gives data that is easy to understand and has a good battery life,” Vyas said. The popular fitness watch features step-by-step fitness and nutrition programs, personalized insights and motivation, daily activity and vitals.

This second generation version of the Fitbit Inspire offers 10 days' worth of battery life per charge to track sleep stages, provide regular sleep scores and set optimal alarms that use gentle vibration to wake you, while the companion app details ways to build better bedtime routines and sleep habits.

In order to utilize all of the advanced features and tools, you must subscribe to a membership ($10 a month).
A highly rated fitness watch from an expert-recommend brand
Another iteration of the expert recommendation above is the Fitbit Versa 2, which has over 105,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Like the Inspire, it has the same tracking and data-collecting abilities that can help you build a healthier lifestyle and understand sleep patterns, with the added benefit of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa built in. Set bedtime reminders, control smart devices at home or access Spotify, all from speaking into the watch.

The Versa 2 also requires a premium membership. First-time subscribers get six months for free.

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