What Sleep Trackers Do and 6 Sleep Monitors to Check Out

December 26 - Read our blog on what sleep trackers measure and some suggestions of trackers to try.

We all have trouble with our sleep from time to time. We all also know the effect poor sleep can have on our days, our bodies, our minds, our lives. A well-used device from the fitness technology market is the sleep monitor. The global market for sleep technology is expected to hit $77 billion in three years time. It’s estimated that about 60% of the demand comes from people who are stressed, anxious, and having sleep problems in the US.

So what exactly do these monitors monitor and what are some suggestions as to monitors that may be right for you?

What Do Sleep Monitors Monitor?

Starting with the obvious – sleep monitors monitor your sleep. How deeply you sleep, how long you sleep, what the quality of your sleep is are all metrics that are measured and analyzed by sleep monitors.


How long did you sleep last night? We all have different sleep needs, what would be a full night’s sleep to one person could be borderline sleep deprivation to someone else. We each generally know what works for us. Tracking the duration of your shut-eye is somewhat of a hit-and-miss endeavor. Sleep trackers often get this wrong because they usually depend on movement to “read” duration of sleep. This is a limited measurement at best. Some trackers will allow you to adjust post-monitor, so if your tracker says you fell asleep at 10 p.m. but you know you laid awake until 11:30 p.m., you can adjust that time. This isn’t the most reliable way of tracking how long you sleep.

Non-REM Sleep

Non-REM sleep is also referred to as “light sleep.” Generally, we sleep in 90-minute cycles and while in these cycles we move through different stages of sleep. Non-REM sleep is one of these cycles. It’s a transition phase to deeper sleep (REM sleep) and it’s easier to wake up from. We’re more susceptible to sleep disturbances from light, noise, movement, etc. while in this light sleep phase. Again, movement is used by trackers to judge your non-REM sleep. Again, not the most reliable method.

Restless Sleep

Not all sleep monitors will track or measure your restless sleep. Although some restlessness is normal as we sleep, it’s seen more often when we’re in non-REM sleep. A significant amount of restlessness seen on a continuous basis can indicate sleep problems. If you see this emerging as a pattern and you’re feeling not well rested during your day, it might be a good idea to visit your doctor and see if it’s possible there are underlying issues to address. Restlessness can be a sign of sleep apnea and this can lead to more serious problems.

REM Sleep

REM sleep is also referred to as “deep” sleep and is what it sounds like: a deeper sleep stage. REM stands for “rapid eye movement” and is the final stage of sleep. This sleep level is often seen as indicative of the overall quality of sleep you’re getting. Deep sleep deprivation can lead to very serious health and mental and psychological issues. The body needs this REM sleep to restore itself. Immune function occurs during this phase so if this sleep is disturbed or suppressed for a length of time your body will not synthesize antibodies as efficiently as someone with a normal amount of REM sleep. REM is also linked to memory.

Dr. Jordan Stern of New York’s Blue Sleep Clinic says the most REM sleep a person can get nightly is between 40-50%.

Heart Rate While Sleeping

Fitness trackers and sleep monitors use heart rate data to help with sleep tracking and analysis. The heart has a different rate for REM sleep than for non-REM sleep. Heart rates are more erratic in REM sleep and are slower in non-REM sleep. Many sleep monitors will take this data and combine it with your movements as your sleep. This helps determine better which stage of sleep you’re in while being monitored.

Sleep Trackers/Monitors to Check Out

SleepScore Max

The SleepScore Max tracks your sleep using echolocation. This is a reflection technique that fires out ultra-low power radio waves, tracking breathing patterns as you sleep.

Fitbit Alta

The Fitbit Alta is a wristband that uses an accelerometer sensor. It will monitor awake periods, light sleep, and deep sleep.

Microsoft Band

The Microsoft Band is a wristband that tracks your heart rate, your levels and duration of activity, caloric burn and sleep quality.

SleepCoacher iOS + Android

The SleepCoacher is an app for the iPhone and for Android. It also uses an accelerometer to monitor you while you’re awake and asleep. This device offers personalized sleep recommendations based on your habits.

Misfit Shine 2

The Misfit Shine 2 is Misfit’s smallest wearable. It does not measure heart rate but does provide detailed data on your nightly sleep, light sleep, REM sleep, duration and awake periods. Its design makes it easy and comfortable to wear during the night.

Beddit 3.5

Beddit uses Bluetooth 4.0 and Apple iBeacon to provide totally automated sleep monitoring. You use it by slipping it under your sheet, where it then will measure the person laying on top of it. It covers an area of approximately 75 centimeters.


We’re living in a digitized world. We track, monitor, check and analyze our activities, our strength and endurance – why should we leave out our sleep? You can better know what is going on in your body by analyzing your sleep. Our physical, psychological, and mental health depend largely on the quality of our sleep. Do your research, consult with your health care provider, determine what you’re looking for and what your goals are and you’ll find many excellent choices of sleep trackers to choose from.

Image Credit: www.news.mit.edu.com

Post by Andrea Rogers