Over the past years, new research has made us increasingly aware of the importance of good sleep for both our physical and mental wellbeing. In order to stay sleep-aware, the tech-savvy are turning to sleep trackers to help them monitor their sleep quality.

Today, we’re looking into the different types of sleep trackers, the pros and cons, and how you can use these gadgets to take steps towards better, healthier rest.

Sleep Trackers: Device or app?

Sleep trackers come in a whole range of formats, from smartphone devices to wearable tech or dedicated tracking gadgets that attach to your bed.

In general, wearable tech is thought to be more reliable as it has access to more data — like your heart rate and movement — than a static app. Wearable devices also record data automatically, whereas most apps require at least some manual input.

In our opinion, the best options provide both a wearable gadget and a matching app that you can use to track and monitor your sleep data. However, if you aren’t used to wearing gadgets, there are some great standalone apps out there too! Here’s our rundown of the top five options:

  1. Fitbit - One of the most popular fitness aids on the market, the Fitbit has expanded to sleep tracking with its Fitbit Versa and matching app. The Versa is capable of tracking both your movement and heart rate, which it translates into accurate sleep stage graphs in the app. It will give you sleep insights, compare your sleep to others in your demographic, and help you set sleep targets with haptic feedback reminders.
  2. Beddit - Designed to integrate with Apple Health, this clever monitor fits to your bed to track your sleep stages via movement, sound (breathing, snoring, sleep talking), temperature, and humidity. This gadget is a great option if you suspect your bedroom environment or a sleep condition is keeping you up at night.
  3. Sleep Cycle - If you feel like wearable tech might be uncomfortable in bed, this is a pretty reliable app when it comes to tracking sleep stages and sleep quality. The app uses your phone’s camera and microphone to accurately detect your sleep cycles. All the information can be viewed in via the Sleep Cycle app, in easy-to-understand graphs that track your progress over time.
  4. Auto Sleep - If you have an Apple Watch, there are a number of sleep tracking apps you can download that work with the watch’s own sensors. Auto Sleep is a good one as it tracks all of your data automatically, without any manual input, and is capable of recording your sleep as accurately as a standalone device.
  5. Sleep Time - If you struggle with getting off to sleep and waking up in the morning, Sleep Time is a good choice. It provides you with soundscapes to aid sleep at night and gentle alarms for more positive waking. The Sleep Time Sleep Lab will also track the quality of your sleep and give you suggestions on how to improve.

Should You Be Tracking Your Sleep?

Of course, like anything, sleep trackers are beneficial in moderation. Becoming obsessed with your tracker and its results can actually lead to even more sleeplessness than if you weren’t tracking your sleep at all.

This has become such an issue in the wellbeing industry that it now has a name: orthosomnia — the act of becoming so obsessed with your sleep quality that it causes stress and anxiety that ends up keeping you awake at night. Habitually checking screens before bed can also cause overexposure to blue light, which is detrimental to good sleep.

One solution is to use an automatic tracker that requires no manual input and that you can check from time to time instead of every morning and night.

If you do find yourself struggling to sleep and that negative tracker results are making you anxious, the best bet is to go back to basics. Ensure your bedroom environment is suited to good sleep, you have a comfortable mattress and supportive bed frame, and that you practise sleep aids like deep breathing or meditation before bed.

And remember, sleep trackers can be really handy for a quick insight into your sleeping patterns or if you’re concerned you might have a sleeping condition. But, if you’re really worried, you should always visit your GP who can send you to a sleep lab for proper testing.