Sleep tracking is a great way to learn about your sleep quality and take action to improve it. A wide range of sleep trackers are available in the market. However, all sleep trackers fall into two categories: contactless and wearable. With differences in price and functionality, making an informed choice will ultimately affect your sleep quality.
Wearables like the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, and Whoop are widely popular. They are discreet and track multiple metrics apart from sleep. On the other hand, contactless sleep trackers are relatively new and promise the same accuracy without any hindrance. Learn about the differences to decide which is best for you.
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Why You Need a Sleep Tracker
Sleep tracking can provide deep insights into your sleeping patterns and overall health. Sleep trackers are great at tracking the different types of sleep cycles throughout the night, your readiness scores, and even sleep debt. It can help uncover any underlying sleep disorders and help you improve your sleep quality. And with the right tracker and sleep apps, you can also catch up on chronic sleep loss.
Additionally, features like readiness score and sleep debt help personalize your reports. Having a consistent sleep schedule may help you feel rested and alert throughout the day. However, everyone’s sleeping habits and patterns are different.
Therefore, you may need short naps during the daytime or more sleep during the night. Trackers consider all these factors and provide a comprehensive report.
Choosing between a contactless or a wearable sleep tracker depends on your use case, budget, and comfort. Both types of trackers work on different technology and have variable accuracy. It is important to note that contactless trackers are a nascent stage technology compared to wearables, which have been in the consumer tech market since the early 2010s.
The Technology Used in Sleep Trackers
Contactless trackers use radar technology for sleep tracking while wearables use photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors. These are completely different from one another. PPG sensors measure changes in blood volume by measuring the amount of light reflected by your blood vessels. They track heart rate variability (HRV) and skin temperature among other parameters.
Radar technology works using radio waves. The tracker fires radio waves that bounce off your body. The tracker analyzes the reflected waves to detect body movement during sleep. Due to this, contactless trackers can estimate the breathing rate as well. SleepScore Max and the Amazon Halo Rise are two of the most popular contactless sleep trackers.
Which Type of Sleep Tracker Is More Accurate?
There is no conclusive result for the accuracy of either of the trackers. This is because both types measure your sleep using completely different methods. A study published in Physiological Measurement found the Oura Ring has a near-comparable accuracy to the medical-grade ECG device. Similarly, a study published in Sleep found contactless trackers such as the SleepScore Max to have equivalent accuracy to wearables.
For example, wearable sleep trackers have higher accuracy when measuring heart rate variability (HRV) and skin temperature. Whereas contactless trackers are better at measuring the subtlest body movement as well as respiration and heart rate.
Even though the PPG sensors in wearable trackers can measure changes in blood volume, they can show inaccuracies in heart rates due to motion or ambient light. The radar used by contactless trackers picks up the tiny movements in the chest every time your heart beats, making it more accurate.
Therefore, wearables are more accurate at detecting biological markers and stress whereas contactless trackers are better at detecting physiological metrics such as movement. When the Matter protocol enables cross-device functionality, you may be able to use both types of trackers simultaneously for more detailed and accurate sleep tracking.
Comfort Level of Sleep Trackers
Contactless trackers are known for better comfort. Their non-intrusive functionality sets them apart from wearables. They need to be placed on the side of the bed facing you for best results. Amazon Halo Rise is a contactless tracker that also doubles up as a light-based alarm clock. It detects your body’s sleep cycles and automatically wakes you up at the right time using a bright light.
That can be more soothing than an audio or vibration alarm. However, wearables are becoming lighter and use more skin-friendly materials to increase comfort. For example, Whoop comes with a breathable and comfortable wristband. The Oura Ring is perhaps the most comfortable wearable tracker due to its size.
Therefore, comfort is a subjective metric that varies from person to person. People who are light sleepers or have sleep disorders such as insomnia may find it difficult to fall asleep with an Apple Watch on their wrist.
Sleep Tracker Price Comparison
Another factor to keep in mind when choosing between the two types of sleep trackers is price. This can be a deal-breaker as wearables are usually priced higher compared to contactless trackers. Before deciding upon your budget for a sleep tracker, it is important to determine your goal and preferences.
If you are looking for a comprehensive health-tracking device or an all-in-one solution, a wearable might be a better option. The Oura Ring can contribute towards an overall healthy lifestyle. It is known for its sleep tracking, menstrual cycle tracking, workout tracking, and other wellness parameters. And Whoop 4.0 can optimize your sleep so that you can rest properly and help your muscles recover faster. However, there are add-on monthly subscription costs attached to some wearables. The Oura Ring starts at $299 with a membership plan of $6 per month.
Meanwhile, the SleepScore Max does not provide activity tracking or other metrics. But it starts at $161 and has no additional membership fees. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option with the same level of accuracy, contactless trackers are a better option.
Picking the Right Sleep Tracker Matters
Wearables and contactless trackers have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one to buy depends on your sleep environment, budget, comfort preference, and personal goals. For example, a contactless tracker may incorrectly measure movement if you have pets at home who obstruct your sleep.
Therefore, contactless trackers are great if you have a fixed sleeping schedule, budget-constraint, a stable sleeping environment, and want to prioritize comfort. Wearables are a better option if you want more value and all-around tracking from your device.