If you toss and turn at night, a host of gadgets are eager to help you get some quality shut eye.
One of the most popular sleep trackers, Zeo distinguishes itself from the pack by providing brain wave-level insight. When it’s time to go to bed, you wear a headband that tracks your various states of sleep throughout the night (wake, REM, light sleep and deep sleep). Zeo has two units on the market: an alarm-clock Bedside Sleep Manager that charges the monitor and displays real-time stats, and a slimmed-down Sleep Manager Pro that charges and pairs the sleep monitor to your phone. The former’s main drawback is that data has to be manually uploaded to the Web from an SD card; the latter’s is that it takes far too many steps to set up each night. More discouraging is that wearing a headband for eight hours can get uncomfortable and sweaty.
The sleep monitor Lark originated as an idea to keep partners’ misaligned schedules from waking each other (here’s to saving all those marriages between bartenders and teachers). It features a silent alarm clock that is worn on the wrist. When it’s time to get up, Lark gently vibrates you awake without disturbing your better half/sleeping beauty. And since it uses actigraphy — a motion-based sensor — to measure sleep quality over the course of an evening, it’ll nudge you awake at the most optimal time relative to your sleep cycle.
It’s easy to forget Fitbit — known more for being a sleek smart pedometer — is also a sleep monitor. The Fitbit Ultra, which is currently being phased out, packed in a motion monitor to log how often you toss and turn at night. In its place are two new trackers: the more budget-friendly Fitbit Zip and the Fitbit One. The entry-level model lacks sleep monitoring as well as a few other features, but the latter adds a new snooze component. Taking a page from Lark’s book (except in the reverse order), Fitbit One also integrates a silent alarm to wake you gently. The new upgrades also allow for easier syncing, done wirelessly with a USB dongle or automatically with Bluetooth 4.0 devices.
Most sleep monitors track your slumber by being on your body (or in Zeo’s case, your head). But what if you don’t want any of that? This is where Gear4′s Renew SleepClock comes into the picture. An alarm clock dock for iOS device owners, the tracker will monitor from afar (the bedside) your breathing and movement without picking up noise from your partner or pets. The obvious drawbacks: iPhone 5 and Android users need not apply. The not-so-obvious one: While the app works well and even has comparative data for people of the same gender and age range, there’s no online dashboard if you prefer viewing this data on a computer.
One of the cheaper alternatives, WakeMate is a wristband that uses actigraphy to monitor motion in the middle of sleep. As its name suggests, it uses this data to wake you up at — wait for it — the optimal time in your sleep cycle. The app automatically uploads your “Wakelytics” to a Web dashboard. Interesting enough, it’s the only sleep gadget I’ve come across that promises to help you sleep more efficiently in less time by calculating the number of hours of slumber you should have each night.
The armbands BodyMedia offers function as activity monitors that also track sleep quality. It’s likely a fine product, but it takes the most anti-consumer approach of the bunch, holding your data hostage and only letting you peek if you pony up a monthly $6.95 subscription fee. The company gives you the first three months free, but that’s how they get you, since you already are invested in the hardware.
Doubling as a watch, SleepTracker analyzes your snoozing with an accelerometer and wakes you at the best point in your sleep with chimes, vibration or a combination. (User reviews seem to indicate that both can be so gentle they completely sleep through it.) Syncing is also a cumbersome process, requiring you to upload data by connecting the sleep watch to your computer first.
Japanese electronics company Omrom takes the hands-off approach of Gear4′s Renew SleepClock. Its two sleep-monitoring products — the HSL-001 and HSL-101 work inconspicuously. The former is placed on the mattress directly and monitors bed movements, while the latter uses a radio-frequency sensor to scan body movements within a five-foot range.
The Bluetooth accessory maker — usually producing sleek products people want in their hands stat — fumbled with Up, which tracked movement (including sleep) and featured a silent alarm. It came in an attractive, unobtrusive wristband meant for all-day wearing. But a month after its launch last November, customers began complaining about bricked Ups after a software update. Jawbone did the noble thing, giving refunds to everyone, including those consumers who weren’t affected (even allowing them to hold on their wristbands).