Sleep Trackers Pt. 2: How to Choose the Best Tracker for You
Let's continue our expedition into the world of sleep trackers! If you haven't read part one yet, do it now!
By now, you probably have some clue on how sleep trackers work and what sleep data consists of. But how do tracker devices and brands differ from each other? Should you invest in a high-end tracker, or does a cheap one do the trick as well? What criteria should you base your decision on?
Sleep Detection Accuracy
Each manufacturer uses its own algorithm to combine data from multiple sources to achieve as accurate estimations of your sleep as possible. There can be significant differences in their accuracy, though. What makes for a good sleep tracker is detecting whether you are asleep or awake as accurately as possible. This should be your primary focus before anything else when choosing a tracker.
Emphasize Data Quality
Pay attention to the actual data sources the device provides for sleep tracking. How many different ones are there? What kind of sensors are equipped in the device? Don't let marketing jargon fool you. Consider which of the data sources are actually useful in sleep tracking and which are there just because they sound scientific and convincing? Often activity and heart rate measurements alone are enough to provide a solid foundation for basic sleep tracking needs. Read more on sleep data here.
Choose the Best Algorithm
There are also differences in the algorithm, and some just seem to detect sleep more accurately than others, even when they use the same data. Higher-end devices generally tend to use more sophisticated algorithms, but that might not always be the case. Sometimes a cheap device might provide as good or even more accurate results than an expensive one! Once again: put more value on accurate sleep detection than other features.
What makes comparing the algorithms troublesome is that they are the black box in every sleep tracker. Companies rarely want to reveal their secret ingredients, and sometimes the only way to compare different brands and devices is to test them out. Reading user reviews can be extremely helpful, but beware of the company 'fanboys' and sponsored reviews.
'Advanced' Sleep Tracking Features
Detecting sleep is what wearable trackers do the best. Often companies also promote other more 'advanced' features, such as sleep stage analysis and sleep quality or recovery scores. These features can provide a nice touch on the user experience, but to be honest, some of them are rather gimmicky and bear little intrinsic value. In some cases, features such as sleep quality monitoring might be adequately accurate (depends on the algorithm). Then again, monitoring sleep stages is way beyond consumer trackers' capabilities, and you should never take anything based on that too seriously. Awake vs. asleep is the most useful part of the data, so more than anything, pick a tracker that detects sleep accurately.
Sleep is rarely the only thing wearable activity trackers measure. Most of the devices also measure daytime activity in some form or another. Consider what extra features you need for your tracker. Some devices are more capable in sports and fitness tracking, whereas others focus more on rest and recovery. There can also be a wide range of other than tracking-related features. Do you need comprehensive smartwatch features and integration with your smartphone user interface, or are you more interested in the tracking itself?
This might not be the first thing in your mind, but there are surprisingly big differences in battery life between sleep tracker models. It can range from just a few days to several weeks. Often the feature-rich smartwatches are the most power-hungry ones, and the more minimalistic devices require less maintenance. Consider how often you are willing to plug your device into a charger. There is no use in owning the latest and greatest device in the market if you don't have the energy to keep it charged. Keep in mind that you can't charge it during the night if you wish to track your sleep!
Generally, sleep tracking is possible with all modern smartphones with Bluetooth connection. Although most major brands are compatible with both iOS and Android platforms, it's good to make sure the manufacturer supports your OS before purchasing a tracker. You might also want to find out how flexible they are when it comes to sharing the data with third-party applications. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with what they have to offer. Nyxo works with all sleep tracker brands as long as they are Apple Health or Google Fit compatible. We also support a collection of the most popular brands directly.
Comfort of Use
When it comes to wearing something during your sleep, the comfort of use is vital. While larger smartwatches might be packed up with more features, not everyone likes to wear a bulky watch on their wrist 24/7. Comfort can be an issue, especially with devices that measure heart rate from your wrist. For the heart rate measurements to be accurate, the wristband needs to be tighter than when wearing a regular wristwatch. If you use the device day and night, this can get annoying in the long run.
If possible, test the device before making the order to make sure it feels comfortable. Explore different options and find the one that suits best for you. Although wristbands are popular, there are other alternatives, such as rings or non-wearable under-mattress trackers.
In the end, the most important question is always about the price. With prices ranging from thirty or forty dollars to five hundred and more, it is worth asking what extra value you can get by investing more money on a sleep tracker?
Design, Hype, and Extra Features Cost
When comparing sleep tracker prices, you have to know what it is that you are actually comparing. If you are searching for a full-fledged smartwatch, you have to prepare for paying a bit more. Since we are talking about a different category of devices entirely, the price isn't really comparable to cheaper activity trackers. You are paying extra dollars for the extra features, not necessarily improved sleep tracking functionality. It's up to you whether you find those features useful or not.
Beautiful design and brand hype always draw the prices up. Usually, the more costly the device is, the more "air" there is in the price. Still, paying top money for a high-end tracker is not necessarily a bad idea. High-end trackers are usually a safe bet when it comes to data quality and accuracy. But if you are on a budget, there may be equally good options at a lower price point as well, if you are willing to spend some time investigating.
Are Cheap Sleep Trackers Any Good?
Even if you are short on money, you can still get a pretty good sleep tracking device. Don't pick the cheapest one straight away, but do some studying. Read technical specifications and user reviews and try to find a device that does what it says and detects sleep as accurately as possible. You might not get the fanciest looking or the most comfortable one, and it probably lacks the latest gimmicks. But in terms of improving your sleep, there is perhaps not that much difference between a $29 and a $299 device. If you have the motivation for change, nothing can beat that!