In Search of the Perfect Sleep Tracker

Under the direction of Liz Keyser, our consumer-tech expert, Team Wellocracy recently tested several popular sleep trackers. While people were generally positive about tracking their sleep, typically, our testers liked some aspects of their trackers, but wished that they offered additional or different features. Based on our testers’ reviews and her own expertise, we asked Liz to design what she would consider to be the “perfect” sleep tracker. Although it doesn’t exist yet, reading over her list of “must haves” for a tracker could help you better decide which features best suit your needs.

# 1 The Tracker Does All the Work

First, a tracker should require very little if any effort on the part of the user. You should be able to go about your normal routine without giving it a thought. A few of the activity trackers shift pretty easily into sleep trackers, like Fitbit, Up by Jawbone and Basis, but may still require pushing a button to put the tracker into sleep mode. Liz is excited about a new tracker that is now being funded on Indiegogo called Beddit. It’s an “ultra thin” sensor that you place under your bed sheets that tracks your sleep and sends the information to your smartphone where you can access a full report on your sleep quality in the morning. The advantage here is that you don’t have to remember to turn it on, it tracks automatically, night after night.

# 2 Helps You Set and Stick to Goals

There are a lot of people who are sabotaging their own sleep by ignoring bedtime. They don’t have a particular sleep problem, rather its self-inflicted. Some sleep trackers, like Basis and Fitbit, offer a tool that enables you to create goals so that you can set a specific bedtime or quantify the amount of time you want to sleep. Having a feature like this can help motivate you to stick to your bedtime.

# 3 Provides Easy Way to Correlate Lifestyle with Sleep Disruptions

If you knew a particular activity or food you were eating too close to bedtime was interfering with your sleep, you could possibly eliminate it or make changes in your routine. First, you have to identify what you’re doing wrong. One app, SleepCycle allows you to keep track of possible factors that could be disrupting your sleep. Before you go to bed, you access your personal sleep diary on the app and check off simple statements like “I ate too much,” or “I had a lot of caffeine today.” Then over time, you can start correlating the external factors that may be affecting your sleep quality score and take corrective action.

# 4 Records Ambient Noise

During Liz’s freshman year of college, she recalls sleeping horribly and didn’t know why until one night she stayed up very late night and realized she kept hearing a very loud noise: It was a heavy door outside of her dorm room being opened and slammed shut all night. When she figured out what was waking her up, she was able to do something about it. That’s why she thinks the perfect tracker should include a feature offered by the app Sleepbot, which records sound as it tracks sleep. If you find that you wake up a lot, you may not realize why until you listen to the recording and hear whether a neighbor’s dog was barking, a car alarm went off, or your partner was snoring loudly.

# 5 Provides Overall Sleep Score

Several of our testers said they thought their sleep reports were too complicated; they didn’t want to be told how much they moved around all night, or the ratio of light sleep to deep sleep. They wanted something really simple, like an overall sleep score. This is a great feature for people who don’t want to review too much data. A sleep score can help people quickly understand and quantify how well they slept, as well as have an easy way to track their progress.

The “perfect” sleep tracker may not be on the market yet, but you can still find one that may work well for you.