Months in covd-19-induced lockdown have for many of us taken a toll on our sleep. From the late-night scrolling through news to the bizarre dreams and midnight wake-ups worrying, the stress of the coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc on our collective sleeping habits.
A recent survey found two in five people in the UK have experienced sleep disturbance. And with a good night’s rest considered an important part of overall health and wellbeing, you may have decided to start tracking yours. But where do you start? Here, with a quick list of good sleepmonitors from free apps to dedicated sleep sensors.
App: Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep on your phone either on your bed or next to it on a bedside table. Photograph: Sleep Cycle
Price: Free (Android | iOS) or £29.99
If you want to get started with sleep tracking, a free app for your smartphone is the cheapest way to go. Sleep Cycle is one of the best for Android or iPhone and works by tracking your movements either using your phone’s accelerometer when placed on your bed next to your pillow or using the microphone to listen to your movements when placed on a bedside table.
You get analysis including a simple graph, an intelligent alarm designed to wake you up in a lighter sleep cycle, and integration with Apple Health or Google Fit for free. A premium upgrade of £29.99 adds various sleep aids through sound, more alarms, sleep history synced to SleepSecure and snore detection.
A free app is a good place to try out sleep tracking.
Basic fitness tracker: Xiaomi Mi Band 4
The low-cost Xiaomi Mi Band 4 does a good job of basic sleep tracking, including silent alarms. Photograph: Xiaomi
Price: RRP £34.99 – deals from £25
The Chinese firm Xiaomi is the world’s second largest wearables company behind Apple for good reason: its affordable fitness trackers are feature-packed and great.
The Mi Band 4 is one of the lowest-priced fitness trackers with a heart rate sensor and comprehensive health tracking and lasts up to 20 days between charges. For sleep, it will automatically track the basics, including duration, deep and light sleep, interruptions, how long it took to nod off and to wake up. It will also continuously track your heart rate while you are wearing it and you can set vibrating alarms for the morning.
The companion Mi Fit app is fairly easy to understand, with good, simple presentation, but if you want sleep cycle analysis, you will have to spend a bit more.
Good all-round fitness and sleep tracking on a budget – but watch out for sellers flogging fakes.
Advanced fitness tracker: Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit’s latest fitness band, the Charge 4, has comprehensive sleep tracking, including blood oxygen estimation. Photograph: Fitbit
Price: RRP £129.99
The new Charge 4 is Fitbit’s latest comprehensive fitness tracker, with GPS, heart rate and up to seven days’ battery life.
The Charge 4 uses motion and its heart rate sensor to automatically track sleep duration, interruptions and full cycles, including light, deep and REM sleep. It can also monitor your resting heart rate as a metric for fitness and your estimated blood oxygen variability, which is used to detect breathing difficulties that can indicate conditions such as sleep apnoea.
The Fitbit app has comprehensive analysis and tracks trends over weeks and months, including a sleep score each night. There is advice on how to improve your sleep, plus sleep goals and aids to help you get to sleep on time. Silent vibrating alarms help you get up in the morning.
Comprehensive sleep tracking, including blood oxygen, in a fairly small fitness bracelet and easy to understand app
Smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Most good smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, can track sleep as well as other health metrics. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Price: RRP £269 – deals from £235
Practically any smartwatch with a heart rate sensor can measure sleep – this will soon include the Apple Watch with the watchOS 7 update due in the autumn. But it helps to have one with a good two-day battery life so it lasts through the day and the night.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch you can get for Android (it works with an iPhone, too), and lasts up to 48 hours with exercise and sleep tracking. The Samsung Health app automatically tracks your sleep duration, heart rate, calories burned and sleep cycles including REM, with simple to interpret charts and a sleep-efficiency rating.
It also logs your sleep consistency and tracks trends including your average caffeine intake and average bedtime and wake-up time. It can also set silent alarms for the morning.
With solid sleep tracking from a multi-purpose device, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is hard to beat.
Bed-mounted: Withings Sleep Analyzer
Slide the Withings Sleep Analyzer mat under your mattress for wearable and maintenance-free sleep tracking. Photograph: Withings
Price: RRP £119.95
The Withings Sleep Analyzer is a mat that slips under your mattress and automatically tracks your sleep without you having to wear or position anything, making it the easiest to live with.
Using pneumatic and sound sensors, it comprehensively handles the basics such as sleep duration, disturbances, consistency and cycles, including REM and heart rate, with aplomb. The mat can also track snoring and the disturbances in breathing associated with sleep apnoea, making it one of the few devices with regulatory approval to do so in Europe.
It syncs via wifi straight to your Withings account with data displayed in the easy-to-interpret companion Health Mate app on your phone or tablet. Each night it gives you a sleep score, a breakdown of each individual stat, a chart and your heart rate, and then it tracks trends across weeks and months.
Zero-maintenance, comprehensive sleep tracking – including snoring and sleep apnoea – without having to wear any kind of device.
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