April 17, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

How to track your sleep: The best tech to use

10 min read

This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Sleep, a weeklong focus on everything you need to sleep better. We’ll be featuring new products, tips and exclusive deals all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new.

We all need to get a good night’s rest if we want to function like living, breathing humans and not caffeine-addicted zombies. There are plenty of ways to improve your sleep, but it can be tricky to figure out which methods work best and which have little to no effect on your sleep quality.

A surefire way to figure it out is by tracking your sleep at night. Nowadays, there are lots of different ways to do it, whether you want to strap a gadget to your wrist or use a sensor to detect your breathing and motion throughout the night.

Below, we’re breaking down the best ways you can track your sleep and understand what all the data means for your sleeping habits.

Whether you’re making small life adjustments or are overhauling things like your diet or workout regime, it’s important to keep tabs on the quality of your sleep and how long you’re sleeping at night. According to the CDC, adults aged 18 to 60 should be getting not just seven hours of sleep every night, but spend at least a quarter of that time in deep (REM) sleep. This helps your body repair itself, build bone and muscle, and strengthen your immune system.

Things like alcohol, too much screen time, stress and late nights can affect not just the quality of your sleep, but how long you stay in deeper stages of sleep. Any disruptions to your deep sleep can cause negative side effects, leaving you feeling lethargic and unable to bounce back after intense days. Using a sleep tracker can help you understand how long you’re entering each sleep stage and whether you’re getting enough rest from it.

Once you’ve collected enough sleep data from a tracker, you can use it to inform the changes you make in your life. For example, if you drink caffeine a few hours before bedtime and you notice that your deep sleep has decreased, it might be a good idea to skip that extra cup of coffee after dinner and stick to decaf. You’ll also be able to see how a new diet, exercise routine or alcohol consumption affects your sleep.

Similarly, using a tracker that detects when you’re stressed out and proactively encourages you to exercise mindfulness can also have an impact on your sleep. It’ll lead to a more restful mind and an easier time falling asleep at night, which will allow you to enter deeper sleep much more efficiently.

The most obvious and accessible way to track your sleep is by using a wearable device like a smartwatch or fitness tracker. It’s rare nowadays to find one that isn’t capable of keeping tabs on your nightly Zzzs, and most of them do a good job at detailing how well you slept and the various stages of sleep your body goes through.

The best wearable sleep trackers you can get are the Whoop 4.0 band and Oura Ring, two products that primarily focus on how well you recover after a workout or a long day. They can generate readiness scores in the morning based on key factors such as heart rate, body temperature and — of course — sleep. Plus, they’re unobtrusive and comfortable to wear.

The Oura Ring is the favored sleep tracker for a lot of people thanks to its gorgeous design, low profile aesthetic and the excellent sleep tracking reports in the Oura app. It works with both iOS and Android and gives you a glimpse into how well you slept throughout the night. It also helps you understand how long you were in each sleep stage, whether you had any major interruptions, and whether your body has recovered properly through summarizations of your data in easy-to-understand footnotes at the bottom. Plus, you get a Readiness score between zero and 100 each morning so you know whether you’re on the right track.

Whoop is similar to the Oura Ring in that it, too, gives you detailed analysis of your sleep and a score when you wake up, but it’s far more robust as it can also be used to do things like track all of your workouts and journal your diet changes. Using the journal feature, you can record how late you consumed alcohol or caffeine, whether you were on your phone for too long, whether you shared your bed with someone, and more. All of this data is included in your readiness score which, like Oura, takes into account your heart rate, skin temperature, blood oxygen and more to figure out how well you slept and recovered during the night. And while you’ll already find summaries of your sleep through detailed reports, you can also use the Whoop AI Coach to ask questions about your sleeping patterns to better understand what you’re doing right and what you can improve on.

The downside to Oura and Whoop is that they require a subscription to access the data. For an Oura subscription, it’ll set you back $6 per month, while a Whoop subscription will cost $30 a month (unless you get an annual subscription which, in that case, would lower the cost to around $16-$20 per month). It’s a bit of a commitment to use either of these products, but if you want the best sleep tracking experience, they’re your best bet.

Of course, if you own a smartwatch, you won’t need a Whoop band or Oura Ring to track your sleep. And if the smartwatch you own is the Pixel Watch 2 from Google, you have access to a pretty robust sleep tracking experience. It incorporates Fitbit’s own algorithms and features to track your sleep, detail the stages you’ve entered throughout the night, and can even summarize the type of sleeper you are with a cute animated creature. You’ll also get your daily Sleep Score, summaries of how well you’ve been sleeping, and more.

Like Oura and Whoop, however, you’ll need to subscribe to Fitbit Premium which’ll set you back $10 a month to get all these features. The same goes for other Fitbits in Google’s lineup, like the Charge 6 and Versa 4. Fitbit has been doing sleep tracking well for many years, though, so it might be an easy pill to swallow if you value the experience it affords you.

Any Apple Watch dating back to the Series 5 also tracks your sleep, as does the Galaxy Watch from Samsung, a variety of Garmin watches, and more. The experience varies from device to device as far as what kind of data you get, how detailed it is, and whether it can summarize any of your sleeping habits to make it easier to adjust your lifestyle for higher-quality rest at night. Still, if all you need are the numbers each night, any of these devices can give you those with solid accuracy.

If you don’t have a smartwatch or would rather not wear a fitness tracker to bed, you can use your phone, so long as it’s sitting on your bedside table. While you won’t get information on your heart rate or skin temperature while you sleep, you can still take note of your breathing patterns, now often you snore, and more by using your phone’s microphones.

ShutEye is one of the most popular sleep tracking apps thanks to its array of tools for tracking your sleep and the suite of features for helping you fall asleep at night. The app records your breathing patterns throughout the night and uses its science-backed algorithms to figure out how much time you spent in each sleep stage. It can track your sleep over time and inform you when you have room for improvement. It also lets you know how often you talk at night, whether you’re grinding your teeth, and more.

You’ll also find a full library of relaxing sounds, bedtime stories, and meditations in the app to help you doze off. The sounds won’t interfere with your phone’s microphones so you can track your sleep while listening to, for example, waves crashing on the shore or a fire crackling in the distance.

To gain access to all of the features, ShutEye offers a plan for $60 a year that gets you unlimited access to everything. There’s a free trial at the beginning so you can see if you like it before committing, so at least you can play around with it ahead of time. It’s obviously not the best investment if you’re thinking about buying a proper wearable to track your sleep, but if you want to stick with using your phone, it may be worth the asking price.

Another popular app is SleepScore which focuses strictly on tracking your sleep at night. It uses your phone’s microphones to record your breathing patterns throughout the night, and it plays inaudible sound waves to detect your bodily movements to determine how well you slept. It pours all of this data into an algorithm powered by ResMed, a well-known medical equipment company, and generates a report in the morning with a score to let you know how well you slept. It’s one of the most interesting takes on a sleep tracker for your phone, and many users are happy with the results.

Like ShutEye, SleepScore requires you to sign up for its $50 per year subscription to access all of its features, but with the advanced algorithm and all the science baked into the app, it’s certainly worth trying out if you want a better grasp on your sleep quality.

For those who don’t want to pay to track their sleep, there’s Sleep Cycle which uses the same microphone tricks to record your breathing patterns while you sleep. It can show you a chart every morning of how well it thinks you slept, as well as how long you slept, but it’s not as detailed as ShutEye or SleepScore. Still, it’s a decent alternative and will save you money.

All three of these are available for iOS and Android.

In-bed and bedside trackers

If you’d rather not wear a tracker to bed to keep tabs on your sleep, we’ve got you covered. The Withings Sleep mat is perhaps the most popular in the category thanks to its simplistic design and ease of use. The mat sits underneath your mattress (it’s compatible with mattresses up to 15 inches thick) and can record your heart rate, breathing patterns, snoring, bodily movements and more. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and the Withings app (available on iOS and Android) to display your daily sleep report and let you know how well you slept.

Withings has been a leader in sleep-tracking technology for a while, and the Sleep mat is an easy recommendation because of it. Of course, there are other solutions for tracking your sleep at night without wearing something; the second-generation Google Nest Hub has the tech to do it but has proven to be limited in its accuracy and usefulness.

If you want the best sleep-tracking experience, you have to strap an object to your wrist which not only improves the accuracy but also helps record other sources of information like skin temperature. Still, alternatives exist for those who can’t stand wearing a watch to bed.

Nowadays, it’s easy to track your sleep and use the data to inform your lifestyle decisions. These devices, coupled with implementing changes where you see fit, will help you get higher-quality Zzzs every night and feel more energized when you wake up. And let’s be honest: who doesn’t want that?

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