Sleep trackers have become a popular way for interested users to gain insight into their sleeping pattern, and access metrics previously unavailable to them, but there's a lot to think about. Some fitness wearables from the likes of Misfit and Fitbit will track sleep from your wrist, but you can also buy dedicated sleep tech including high-end sleep trackers that fit under your mattress.
Here's everything you need to know about both kinds - and the other sleep tech on the market - along with our recommendations after testing the tech with as many lie-ins as we could. It's a rough job, but someone's got to do it.
And while we're on the topic of quality sleep, don't forget to check out our ultimate guide to choosing a mattress.
Best sleep trackers of 2020
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1. Withings Sleep Analyzer - Best Overall
The Withings Sleep Analyzer is a devoted sleep tracker that's ideal for those in need of serious analysis of their sleep health or simply don't want to bring a wearable into the bedroom.
The simple grey mat slides under your mattress and tracks sleep quality and duration along with snoring, heart rate, and sleep apnea, giving you a fairly comprehensive overview of your sleeping patterns.
With nothing to wear and no battery to worry about, the Sleep Analyzer gets out of your way - but as you'll need one tracker per person, you'll need to be pretty invested in getting a good night's rest.
Read our full Withings Sleep Analyzer review
2. Withings ScanWatch - Best for fitness and sleep tracking
The Withings ScanWatch is a great alternative to the Withings Sleep Analyzer for those that want all-day tracking and in-depth sleep data.
The watch includes an SpO2 sensor that's used for sleep tracking, with a particular focus on the detection of breathing disturbances known as sleep apnea. Unlike the Sleep Analyzer, full sleep apnea tracking isn’t available right now – it's pending certification – but in the meantime, there’s a more vague ‘breathing disturbances’ measure to give you a rough indicator.
Beyond apnea, the ScanWatch measures everything you'd expect, including sleep duration, depth, interruptions, regularity, and sleeping heart rate, giving you an overall sleep score out of 100 for every night, and it'll track your movement and exercise all day long too.
Read our full Withings ScanWatch review
3. Misfit Ray - A simple tracker
We'd recommend the Misfit Ray for anybody looking for a great sleep- and fitness tracker. It's good-looking and the choice of colours makes it even more stylish, haptic feedback is a real boon and it compares really well with rivals in the same price range.
Battery life is excellent and the app is intuitive too. The sleep tracking provides a plethora of statistics, including total time, a sleep-cycle breakdown and more. You'll find that you're motivated to get out there and get fit in no time.
Read our full Misfit Ray review
4. Amazfit ZenBuds - Best sleep-tracking earbuds
The Amazfit ZenBuds are true wireless in-ear headphones designed to help you get to sleep - and track how well you sleep once you do.
They come equipped with an array of soothing sleep sounds, and enough battery to last the night and track through to morning - and the optional in-ear alarm - too. They're also impressively comfortable, with a petite design and squidgy silicone build making them comfy even for side-sleepers.
The only real downside is that there's no option to use them to listen to anything other than the company's own sleep sounds, so you can't lull yourself to sleep with your favourite podcast or audiobook.
Read our full Amazfit ZenBuds review
5. Fitbit Charge 4 - Best Fitbit for sleep tracking
The Fitbit Charge 4 appeals to both the casual get-fit user and the more serious fitness freaks, complete with built-in GPS that runners will appreciate. Users will love the 1in monochrome display and interchangeable wristbands, plus the updated fitness features compared to the older Charge 3.
In terms of sleep tracking, it offers stats including sleep duration and quality of sleep, whilst also boasting an auto-sleep mode that'll automatically recognise when you're asleep - no need to set it to a 'sleep' mode like with other trackers. You'll even be presented with an overall sleep score when you wake up, making it easier to compare your snoozes on a day-to-day basis.
Read our full Fitbit Charge 4 review
6. Dreem 2 - Best sleep tracking headband
The Dreem 2 headset offers an impressive sleep tracking experience with a range of advanced sensors including an EEG that measures your brainwaves when you sleep alongside a well-built and user-friendly app and a variety of bespoke CBT-focused programs to actively help improve your sleep and fight bad sleep habits.
There are hurdles to get over – mainly having to wear the tracker on your head – but it’s something that most users will get over within a couple of nights. The main point to consider is that it’s a fair bit more expensive than any other sleep tracker we’ve seen, so make sure that you’re going to get the most out of the programs available if you pick one up.
Read our full Dreem 2 review
7. Xiaomi Mi Band 4 - Best cheap sleep tracker
With full waterproofing, a heart-rate sensor, and sleep tracking, the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 offers better value than ever. We’d like to see better integration with third-party apps, but at this price, the Mi Band 4 is impossible to fault. If you're on the market for a cheap sleep tracker that'll track sleep quality and length, you can't go wrong with the Mi Band 4.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Band 4 review
8. Misfit Shine 2 - An understated tracker
Overall, we'd recommend the Misfit Shine 2. It's an all-rounder with some added perks including the haptic feedback for notifications and calls, which we've found enormously useful. Comparing it with rival Fitbit we think it's been priced well, and not having to think about the battery life too often is a huge boon, meaning you'll rarely have to take it off.
Read our full Misfit Shine 2 review
9. Withings Steel HR Sport - A sleep tracker with a classic twist
The Withings Steel HR Sport is the perfect marriage of analogue and digital, featuring an analogue watchface with all kinds of built-in smart tech. It’s thanks to this design that the Steel HR Sport looks at home when worn in the office or at the gym, and that’s not something that can be said about most fitness-focused smartwatches.
It’s capable of tracking over 30 activities, from running to swimming and even yoga or ping pong (not to mention sleeping, of course), and the 25-day battery life means you never need to worry about charging it. Couple that with an app that provides meaningful insight into the data collected by the smartwatch, and you’ve got the perfect fitness companion.
Read our full Withings Steel HR Sport review
10. Moov Now - Basic sleep tracking, advanced fitness coaching
The Moov Now is one of the most interesting trackers we've tried. It puts workouts and coaching first and the basic activity and sleep tracking second, with a built-in virtual coach giving you tips on your workout.
The sleep tracking capabilities are a little basic but if you’re looking for a cheap, unique fitness tracker that boasts limited sleep tracking capabilities, the Moov Now is a solid option.
Read our full Moov Now review
11. Fitbit Flex 2 - A sleep-tracking hybrid
The Fitbit Flex 2 is a chic and slim, lightweight wristband (with bangle and pendant accessories) that tracks and monitors your daily activity and sleep patterns, offering figures on the number of hours slept and quality of sleep, along with a discreet vibrating alarm.
You can compete with Fitbit-using friends too. It’s addictive and fun, and has the most accessories of any Fitbit – making it, of course, the most flexible Fitbit ever.
Read our full Fitbit Flex 2 review
12. Kokoon Sleep Tracking Headphones - Great audio with impressive sleep tracking
There’s a lot to love about the EEG-enabled Kokoon headphones; the low-profile design is ideal for sleeping and commuting alike, and despite weighing 350g, they feel weightless when worn.
The earcups are huge, reaching beyond your ears and resting on your skull for extra comfort, and the soft inner earcups perfect the experience with a cool, soft touch. The accompanying Kokoon app for iOS and Android is well built and easy to use, and offers a suite of soundscapes to use to fall asleep – some of which are even customisable. You’ll also find CBT-inspired breathing exercises and multi-day programs to help improve the quality of your sleep, along with a breakdown of your previous night's sleep.
The issue is that it’s just not comfortable for side-sleepers – the plastic swivel joints dig into the side of your head, causing enough discomfort to distract you from the main aim; getting to sleep.
Read our full Kokoon Sleep review
Sleep tracker buying advice
Before we go any further and explain the kind of things to consider when buying a sleep tracker, it’s first noting the different kinds available. Most sleep trackers double up as fitness trackers, as the two functions require a similar set of sensors – although not all do. These sleep trackers will more than likely have to be worn when asleep, which may be an issue for some people.
For that portion of the market, there are other options available; the Withings Sleep Analyzer is essentially a strip of sensors that are laid on your bed under your mattress, and tracks your sleep as you lay on it.
So, what do you need to consider when buying a sleep tracker? Well…
The first, and possibly the most important element to consider when buying a sleep tracker is design. The sleep tracker has to be comfortable to wear over long periods, as well as when asleep, although what classes as comfortable changes from person to person so only you know what feels good to you.
Most sleep trackers are fairly understated in design and are covered in a soft material as to not cause skin irritation over long periods, although it may be worth reading user reviews of the tracker you want before buying in case of any comfort issues.
As mentioned above, you don’t have to wear all sleep trackers, although you’ll more than likely have to pay more money for a bed monitor when compared to its wearable counterpart. If you do opt for a wearable, be conscious of displays – while having a display is helpful for operation, screens can get snagged when moving your arms during your sleep, which can wake you up. Not ideal.
Another element to consider when looking to buy a sleep tracker is battery life. It’s worth investing in a tracker that lasts more than 2 days on a charge, as there will more than likely be situations where you’re either away from your charger, or you forget to charge it, and the battery of the tracker will run out during the night.
There’s also a choice between types of battery as rechargeable batteries are more convenient but don’t last as long, while some sleep trackers like the Misfit Ray boast a six-month battery life due to the use of a traditional watch battery. Of course, it’s worth noting that once it runs out, you’ll have to hunt down a replacement watch battery yourself.
Depending on the price and design of the sleep tracker, it may be able to offer more advanced tracking capabilities than its counterparts. While most will offer bog-standard sleep and wake times along with the various stages of sleep you were at during the night, others can track much more.
You can find trackers that’ll track your resting heart rate throughout the night, some that’ll track the quality of the air and ambient noise, and some that’ll even notify you if you’ve been snoring during the night. This will help you determine if there’s an environmental factor affecting your sleep.
What you need to ask yourself is whether you really need the advanced functionality, as there’s a direct relationship between the number of tracking features offered and the price tag.
Of course, the hardware is only half of the product – without a decent app to back it up and delve into your recorded stats, there’s not much point in tracking your sleep. Always try to look at previews of the sleep tracker’s accompanying app before purchasing one if possible, and as recommended above, it’s worth taking a look at user reviews.
It’s also worth mentioning that it’s usually cheaper trackers that have bad quality apps, as it’s likely that the company has skimped on the development of the app and focused on making the hardware as cheap as possible. If you’re an iOS user, look out for trackers that integrate with Apple’s Health app for a better overall look at your personal health (when combined with fitness tracking, eating habits, etc).