Coming in the form of rings, wristbands and mattress pads, sleep trackers crunch the numbers into an easy-to-read report on smartphone apps. Wear them to sleep, and the devices gather data on how many times you woke up before your alarm, your sleep stages (light, deep and REM or rapid-eye movement) and oxygen levels. Some pack the information into a 'good' or 'poor' sleep score for the day.
As you read this, you might question the accuracy of these wearable and non-wearable devices. Dr Shadi Sharifi, MD, neurologist and French-certified sleep medicine specialist at Saudi German Hospital Dubai, says the answer is inconclusive.
"Sleep monitors are very common among the general public nowadays. It's too early to tell whether these can be used as diagnostic tools. So far, only polysomnography (PSG) assessments at a sleep lab, complete with heart rate, movement, brain and muscle activity, and video monitoring, is the standard monitoring procedure," explained Dr Sharifi.
However, our expert does add that sleep trackers can be a helpful device to get an idea of how you've slept. "We cannot say that these produce accurate results, since we don't have enough data, but they are promising. For instance, my Fitbit tracker shows if I've passed REM sleep, stage two, three or four," she added.
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How can sleep trackers help?
Tracking sleep stages is a complex process that's carried out with medical-grade equipment. Our watches and devices can only draw up a rough guesstimate via sensors that measure blood oxygen levels, heart rate and movement.
Still, seeing how many cycles you've passed through the night can explain your condition come morning. "We're supposed to pass four to five sleep cycles per night - each cycle is 90 minutes long. We spend most of our time in stage two, which is light sleep, and stages three and four, known as deep sleep.
"The latter is the most beneficial for the body, it's where we recover from disease, pains and chronic inflammation. Then comes the REM stage lasting for five to 10 minutes, where we dream. This cycle repeats throughout the night," said Dr Sharifi.
Keeping an eye out for your deep sleep stages and cycles, and improving your numbers could, in turn, better the quality of your life.
How much sleep do I need in Ramadan?
You might choose to stay up till dawn for suhoor meals, or interrupt your sleep for a brief wakeful moment. What's the best way to go about it?
"Ramadan changes our diet and sleep. Healthy patients, who don't take medications, should have a long block of sleep through the night, with 10- to 20-minute naps to feel energised during the day," said Dr Sharifi. An ideal scenario would be retiring to bed sometime after iftar and waking up just in time for suhoor.
"Optimal sleep, in terms of quantity and quality, is important for an optimal lifestyle. Adults need seven hours per night - note that I've not said 'per day'. Any less, and you're at risk of chronic diseases, hypertension, immunodeficiency, heart diseases, obesity and insomnia, which can lead to depression and anxiety," said Dr Sharifi.
Conversely, staying in bed for longer does little good for us. Excessive sleep can deplete our energy during the day and may even cause depression. Even if you clock in the required hours, tossing and turning throughout the night affects rest.
Dr Sharifi says our quality of sleep solely depends on lifestyle habits. Squeeze in enough physical activity, have a balanced diet, add intellectual activities or mental exercises, avoid blue light devices before bed, and you're good to go.
Of course, one of the main concerns of wearing a tracking device to bed is comfort levels. Less obtrusive form factors, such as rings and mattress smart pads, could suit light sleepers better.
Don't forget to check out our expert selection of smartwatches and fitness trackers, which almost always carry a sleep monitoring feature. We've picked out the best-rated sleep trackers below to help you rest better, this Ramadan. For faster delivery, sign up for a Prime membership.
1. Best Overall: Fitbit Inspire 3 Activity Tracker
- Feels comfortable and lightweight during sleep
- Tracks sleep stages and duration
- Daily sleep scores
- Smart vibrating alarm goes off at an optimal part of your sleep cycle
- Includes 20-plus exercise modes, irregular heart rhythm alerts, fitness reminders and more
- Deeper sleep analysis is a paid feature
We've picked the Fitbit Inspire 3 as our best overall for one overarching reason: its slim silicone band allows you to comfortably wear it when asleep, say reviews. It's so light on the wrist that you won't even notice you're wearing it. This tiny activity tracker monitors an array of health and fitness metrics. In terms of sleep, you're getting insights on sleep stages, scores and an overall profile. Inspire 3 automatically tracks the duration of your night's rest, time spent in light, deep and REM stages, and then rewards you with a daily sleep score. If you subscribe to the Fitbit Premium membership, which is free for the first six months, you'll receive monthly sleep reports. You can even choose a gentler wake-up alarm with vibrations - your Fitbit strategically wakes you up during the optimal sleep stage for a more refreshed morning. Enjoy a long battery life of up to 10 days and an intuitive colour touchscreen. Reviewers notice the graphs reflect their restless nights. It also picks up oxygen levels and heart rate for a thorough assessment.
Warranty: The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty. Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty of Dh23 and two years for Dh33.
2. Best Ring: Motiv Fitness Ring Sleep And Heart Rate Tracker
- Unobtrusive ring form factor
- Tracks sleep duration, restlessness and wakeful moments
- Stores data for two days without syncing
- Three-day battery life
- Only works with select Android devices
Get basic sleep data with the titanium-brushed Motiv Ring tracker. It's often listed as the more affordable alternative to the popular Oura Ring. No screen means your sleep statistics are only viewable on the Motiv app, once you pair it with your iOS or Android device. It carries a heart rate optical sensor on the bottom, so that it sits close to the blood capillaries in the finger. Motiv Ring carefully monitors your movement patterns during sleep, complete with average sleep and wake times. When you toss and turn in bed, it records the duration as restlessness on your daily sleep detail card. Don't worry about washing your hands with the ring on - it's water-resistant at up to 50 metres. Like any other tracking device, it notes down your step count, heart rate, calories burned and more, say buyers. The Android version of the app can make setup complicated.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh43.75 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty of Dh35 and two years for Dh49.
3. Best Non-Wearable Tech: Withings Sleep Analyser
- Doesn't disrupt sleep
- Records sleep stages, score and snore detection
- Creates a PDF of your sleep diary for sharing
- No charging needed
- Not accurate with sleep apnea detection
If you're really sensitive to wearables in sleep, try an under-mattress sleep pad. The device carries out advanced sleep tracking using pneumatic sensors, which capture movement, breathing and heart rate. Get percentages on how much time you spent in the three sleep stages, a daily sleep score out of 100, snore detection and heart rate during rest. According to Withings, the Sleep Analyser works under spring, latex, foam and memory foam mattresses. Water and air beds are not suitable for the device. If needed, you can create a PDF version of your sleep diary and share it with your doctor. While the tracker is advertised as a detector for sleep apnea, reviews say this feature is not very reliable. Otherwise, it's surprisingly accurate for daily sleep scores and analytics.
4. Best Sleep Monitor for Oxygen Levels: Wellue O2Ring Oxygen Monitor
- Accurately tracks blood oxygen levels during sleep
- Vibration prompts for position shift to allow easier breathing
- Notifies any drop in oxygen levels via a phone alarm
- PC software offers detailed reports
- Silicone strap is easily worn out, say reviews
Another sleep tracker in a ring form, the Wellue O2Ring primarily measures your blood oxygen levels, heart rate and movement during sleep. You'll wake up to a fresh sleep report every day on the Vihealth app. It's a bulkier ring than our Motiv pick because of the soft silicone band and screen, and can be worn around any finger. Its battery offers up to 16 hours of continuous night monitoring, alerting abnormalities with a vibration, even encouraging you to change your sleep position. For a detailed report analysis, complete with trend graphs, download Wellue's free PC software (Windows and MacOS) that makes printable versions available. In the reviews, those with existing sleep disorders have used the device to keep tabs on their sleep quality.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh46.67 for 12 months with select banks.
5. Best Budget: Huawei Band 6
- Tracks sleep on a budget
- Slim profile with a clear AMOLED display
- Detects light, deep sleep, REM and naps
- Sleep improvement suggestions
- Daily sleep score
- Take some time to track accurate results
Track sleep on a budget fitness band that still delivers fairly accurate readings. The Huawei Band 6 has a large 1.47-inch AMOLED screen, with a 14-day battery life. View your sleep infographics in colour on the touch display. Huawei uses its TruSleep 2.0 technology to record four sleep states - deep sleep, light sleep, REM and even napping. Check your daily rest score and discover over 200 sleep improvement suggestions tailored to your results. Though not medically approved, the device can pinpoint patterns related to six major sleep problems. It pairs well with any Android smartphone, say reviewers. They do add that it can take a few nights for the tracker to produce accurate results. When it comes to fitness, the watch records from up to 96 exercise modes.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty of Dh12 and two years for Dh19.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.