How long did it take you to fall asleep last night? Did you stir a lot? What was the quality of sleep you had? Did you toss around a lot? How about your partner? Is the room too bright? Too warm? Too cold? If you’ve asked yourself questions like these before then perhaps a sleep tracker is in your future. In our latest blog entry we test & compare three of the most popular sleep tracking devices on the market today: the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System, the Sense with Sleep Pill, and the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor.
When we set out to test sleep tracking devices, three specific units caught our attention. One of the longest standing brands in this segment is Beddit. Their device is now on its second iteration (v2.0) which added more “smart” to the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor. And with an entry price of $149 the overall cost fits comfortably in the middle of this pack.
Second in popularity is the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System. Although the Withings has similar hardware to the Beddit at first glance, we quickly learned it has unique functions exclusive to their design. One great example of this is with their multi-color LED bedside lamp. Still, it is hard to swallow the $299 price of admission for this device, especially as that cost grows even more when you pony up for a second sensor for your partner.
Last on our list of entries here is the Sense with Sleep Pill, a relative newcomer to this arena. The cheapest of the bunch at $129, the Sense offers a small table side sensor that functions similarly to the Withings lamp, though with a few less features, yet more sensors. Interestingly, the Sense operates without any hardware actually installed under your sheets or mattress. Instead they opted to measure using a “pill” you attaches to your pillow cover. Three similar devices, all with quite unique hardware.
We could have included fitness wearables in this segment, like the Fitbit Charge, or the Garmin Vivosmart, just to name a few. Even the coveted Apple Watch, when coupled with the right app, can track your sleep. But in this test we wanted to look exclusively at purpose built sleep trackers. If you already have a wrist-worn wearable and you’re happy with how it works, it may suffice for basic sleep tracking. All three of these devices we tested here take sleep tracking to the next level of feedback, and data collection.
There was another device we stumbled upon during a visit to our local Apple Store recently. That is the S+ By ResMed Personal Sleep Solution device. Since it used neither a pillow attachment nor an under bed/sheet device, we felt it would lack the level of data collection the other three we tested could offer. Still we may include it in a future follow up test down the road, but for now we’ve decided to use the three more popular units.
We gave each device roughly one week of testing per user, and in all cases tested both matching devices at the same time. Many of the screen shots were taken during testing, so they might look only partially complete. And almost all of the photos are exclusively from my device. But rest assured that the data in the review below is the culmination of all our testing!
($299 first user, $69 additional user)
- The good…
- Provides ambiance lighting
- No sticky tape during install
- Bedtime sound & lighting routine
- Accurate automatic sensing
- The bad…
- Cost is 2x the competitors
- Size of bedside lamp is HUGE!
- Clunky app interface
As with all the devices tested on this blog, they are purchased using my own money. This makes me hyper aware of the actual consumer costs to acquire these products. So you can imagine my surprise when I had to lay out $370 total to get the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System. Sure you can get into it for $69 less if you’re a single user, but that still places it at twice the cost of the next unit down in price. Because of this higher cost, we went in with higher expectations from the Aura.
Setting up the Withings Aura is as simple as the rest, so we’ll refrain of boring you with those kinds of details in this review. It was appreciated that the two bed mounted sensors plug in via USB to the bedside lamp. And that there is even an extra charge port there for your phone charger to plug into. So for those with limited available wall outlets, this helps aggregate things for you, and in ways turns the lamp into a power strip of sorts.
We quickly found out that our platform bed didn’t work as expected when placing the Withings Aura sensors under the mattress, as the setup guide had suggested. Some support articles pointed us to try other methods, such as placing support under the sensors. Instead we ultimately ended up placing the sensors under the mattress pad (on top of the mattress) with solid success, as recommended in the support section of Withings website. For many/most users who have non-platform (regular) beds, you should be able to achieve proper results placing the sensor pads between the mattress and the box spring, as instructed.
Beyond the bed mounted sensor, the Withings Aura includes a bedside lamp. At the base of this lamp is displayed a digital LED clock, whose brightness can be adjusted to your liking. There is also a white, brightness adjustable lamp you can turn on for reading or other purposes. We were bummed to learn that white is the only color option for the reading lamp, especially since the housing contains a multi-color LED that gets used for other features. And those two color-enhanced features are functions that we quite enjoyed.
Firstly, when you’re ready for bed, you can set the Withings Aura to run a routine that lasts roughly 30 minutes. It starts with an ambient red light, meant to increase your natural release of melatonin and help induce sleep. In conjunction with the lamp, it also plays a lulling audio clip of crashing waves. Both the sound and the light diminish in intensity doing the half hour period, helping you fall asleep. This feature was something we loved! Secondly, with the Smart Alarm feature, the device wakes you up with a blue light and a sound of your choosing, again increasing slowly in their intensity to help bring out out of sleep at the most opportune time. These two colors have been researched as ideal for sleep or awakening purposes, respectively.
We should note that all three of these devices offer a smart alarm feature. But only the Withings offered a slow enough fade-in with volume and brightness to be considered gentle by our reviewers. Comparatively the others had smart alarms that were more audibly jarring, and the brightness of the Sense lamp wasn’t quite as pleasing. We did find that the Withings Aura never seemed to really accurately wake us during a light-sleep cycle, almost always waking us up at the same time each morning. In that regards, others did a better job with their time choice, even if not as peacefully.
What the Aura has going for it with high quality hardware quickly falls off a cliff when it comes to their app. For users who don’t want to play in the Withings ecosystem, you’ll find yourself a bit lost in the experience. Where the others devices offer apps that do nothing but track your sleep, the Withings Health app contains the ability to add other devices from the manufacturer, such as their Withings Activite Pop fitness wearable, or their Withings WS-50 Smart Scale, just to name a few. This makes for a more complex interface, and in turn, a less enjoyable experience. We also felt that the data, while nice to see, didn’t provide great insight.
There are some redeeming benefits of the large ecosystem that Withings offers, such as the fact you can view all of this data on their web portal. They also have some nice curated articles that will pop up on the timeline section of the app, providing you with some pointers for helping get a good night of sleep. Still, Withings, like most of the apps here, offer very little actionable feedback when it comes to how you sleep, and how you might improve upon the quality of said sleep. But if you have one of their fitness wearables or smart scales, the single app does make it easy to organize all of your health data.
When it came to accurately sensing the start/end of our sleep cycle, or the simplicity of easily being able to reposition the sensors during bed sheet changing day, we found the Withings Aura a top notch product. But we have a hard time making this our top pick based on price, and because of the rather large and intrusive bedside lamp unit, which we liked for features, but not mass.
Even with some slick third party integrations, such as Nest to adjust your thermostat at bed time automatically, or Spotify for music services as your alarm, this unit still has to face some stiff competition.. Before you rush off to get the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System make sure you consider all the other options we tested.
Beddit Sleep Monitor
($149 first user, $149 additional user)
- The good…
- Simple, basic, intuitive app
- Reasonably priced hardware
- The bad…
- Power outlet for each sensor
- Automatic sensing uses phone GPS
- Sticky tape installation
- Limited in-app sleep feedback
After testing the Withings, we moved to the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor system. Here you’ll spend $149 for your first monitor, and the same to pick up a second for your partner. This makes it affordable for one user, but a bit pricey for two (and only $70 behind the Withings). Each user gets a sensor strip that sits under the sheets, similar to the Withings. In the case here of the Beddit you cannot install below the mattress, as it needs a more direct path to your body in order to properly read your heart rate, breathing, etc.
During setup we came across two negatives instantly. Firstly, each Beddit needs its own power source. For users who have limited electrical outlets near their bed this could become an issue. Secondly, we weren’t fans of the sticky tape backing. Though Beddit claims the tape can be cleaned by wiping it with your hands, and will last for some time, we felt that frequent linen changing will quickly diminish the usefulness of the adhesive. Comparatively, the Withings system uses an air bladder inside of a fabric pouch, and allows you to actually remove the sensor hardware from the fabric casing, so you can clean the outside if you want. In this case, the Beddit does simply just need wiped down, as it is just a very thin plastic sensor strip as shown in the photos. Still, we aren’t fans of the adhesive backing concept over time.
Setup was straight forward, though we did have some issues getting the units to pair up properly. We will give kudos for how multiple users handle recording. Unlike the Withings which forced us to use a single app on a single device, with multiple users, the Beddit lets each user have their own app, and privately see just their own data. We appreciate the stand alone app, which was simple enough to use.
Like the other devices here, sleep detection is automatic. But instead of using your presence to trigger the sleep mode, Beddit requires you turn on a feature that users your phone’s GPS to know you are home, and then strength of the Bluetooth signal to complete the trigger when you’re in the bedroom. We felt this made the auto detection on the Beddit both the most likely to drain your phone battery, and also the most odd of the bunch. Still, it did as good a job as Withings with accuracy there. Which is to say they all did just decent, but none were 100% perfect.
With the Beddit you’ll get metrics that monitor your heart rate, movement, and other data. This lacks recording of temperature or luminosity, items that the other two offer. And though the Beddit does record noise, it doesn’t display it as nicely as the rest. Still, there was a simplicity to the interface of the Beddit iOS app that we appreciated. It was our second favorite in this review, and much better than the Withings, when it comes to user experience on your smart phone.
Like the Withings, you have access to web portal with the Beddit. If other family members choose to share/join, you can even aggregate the user data together on the computer screen. This was nice as a way to see my wife’s sleep and mine, but it didn’t overlay them as nicely as the Sense does in the next section. Furthermore, all of the data remains passive, like the others. You can dig into sections to learn more about what snoring means, for example, but none of these devices go so far as to make suggestions on how to actually improve your sleep.
When the Beddit is running, a red bar on our iPhone showed that the microphone was in use. Where the Withings and Sense have their bedside hardware which is used to read ambient data, the Beddit requires your phone to be the microphone for snoring and other details. Again, this lack of additional hardware does hinder the Beddit’s overall functionality, but we were please to find solid, reliable software and functionality.
From a cost standpoint, it would be hard to suggest the Withings over the Beddit, when a single users of the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor is half the price. Still, it lacks a few of the features, and that Withings lamp is quite trick. We feel most users are simply looking for basic sleep data, and will enjoy the Beddit, which makes do with the ample data it collects. But neither the Withings nor the Beddit took our top pick, as you’ll find out now.
Sense Sleep Pill
($129 first user, $49 additional user)
- The good…
- Wireless sensors
- Lowest cost overall
- Best app experience
- Attractive bedside hardware
- Deepest in-app sleep feedback
- The bad…
- Inaccurate automatic sensing
- Bedside lamp lacks sleep sequence
- No heart rate recording
Unboxing the Sense with Sleep Pill you know you’re in for a treat. Where the other devices are just casual experiences, the packaging of the Sense is like that of a Nest thermostat, or Apple product. It makes you smile, and build with excitement to start to learn about and enjoy the product. You can tell they took cosmetics into account, with this unit’s bedside accoutrement being the most attractive of the bunch.
Setup is simple, and the use of white space in the app is gorgeous, and “in style” right now. Part of why the photo gallery for this app is the largest is because there is just that much more on-screen hand-holding. This prompting, explanation, and colorful visual guide is what truly sets the Sense on a pedestal from the rest. Even though pairing failed at first, it quickly worked the second time around.
When you first plug in the Sense hub you are greeted by a colorful purple swirling effect. From there other colors provide feedback about conditions. Sure, the Withings lamp will sense temperature or luminosity of the room, but the Sense takes that one step further. It measures air quality and humidity, too! Better yet, a wave of your hand over the orb will provide a visual feedback, based on the color of the device. We did note the initial air quality reading was high, but that adjusted within minutes and remained steady there after.
Included with the Sense is a single pill, allowing a single user to record their sleep. For an extra $49 you can add another Sleep Pill for Sense, allowing for two users to record their data at the same time. Each user benefits from the single hub, but with their own pill. It took us a moment to figure out how to add a second user, but the FAQ/support section on the Sense web site gave us all the info we needed. Each user runs the Sense app on their respective smart device, though as the photos show, some of the data such as restlessness shows up across both users. This is quite helpful, as it can indicate if one user is tossing and turning, and how that might effect the other bed partner.
All three of the devices offer a “sleep score” after each night of rest, but only the Sense laid the data out in a fashion we actually looked forward to reviewing. There was just a nice, organic flow to the data in the Sense, that felt lacking in the others. But one of the best aspects was the self-learning and on-going improvement baked right into the app. If you selected the time it said you went to bed, you could mark it right, wrong, or even adjust it to the time you know to be more precise. And this meant the app feedback would allow the developers to improve accuracy as time goes on. None of the other apps offered this layer of in-app adjustment, ease, and consumer feedback.
As with the whole lot here, a Smart Alarm exists that can be set to wake you up no later than a set time, but preferably earlier during a light sleep cycle period. We found the tones available on the Sense to be the most tranquil of the options, though there were a few decent ones in the Beddit app too. What we found most interesting is that the Sense tended to change wake-up times more often than the others. It is hard for us to say if it was accurate when it came to deep vs light sleep, but certainly it varied enough to at least make us believe it was trying harder than the others to find the sweet spot.
Though the Sense still didn’t pop up with hugely suggestive measures to increase sleep, there was more in-your-face feedback, questions, prompts, and advice than the others. Still it never seemed to be too much, and was almost always welcome. Additionally, what little snippets it had were quick and easy to read, providing just a basic blip of data to soothe your curiosity, without making you feel like you just wasted a bunch of time reading some boring medical mumbo jumbo.
When we tested the Sense we opted to run it along the same timing as the Beddit. This was interesting because it gave us data that at times matched, and other times did not. And since the Beddit recorded movement of your torso, and your heart rate, where the Sense relies on your head/pillow to move, it is no big surprise there would be some level of discrepancy between the two. When we discussed this, our testers all agreed that we liked the unobtrusive pill of the Sense, but most of us felt the Beddit or Withings had a better chance of accuracy, based on the location it was sensing.
Though the two color options for the bedside orb make for a gorgeous, artistic piece, we do wish it had a bedtime sequence like the Withings. It seems as though the Sense could easily add this via simply a firmware update, so perhaps such an option will come to exist in the future. It was also appreciated that the sensors were wireless, and the only power hog was the main hub itself. Another trick feature: shake the wireless sensor to reveal which one is which. Each user’s clip-on sensor is assigned a color, so should you mix them up during bed sheet / pillow cover changing, you can easily identify them.
With the best app, and the lowest cost of entry, the Sense with Sleep Pill does most everything the others do here. But it does lack the hardware to sense some of the body metrics the others do, and has no reading lamp or ambient lighting feature set. So does it win overall? Is it the best option of the three?
If you’re an Apple Watch user, you may appreciate the fact that the Withings and Beddit apps work on the watch. This is useful for recording a nap, or just quick access to your prior night sleep score. Still these are features we didn’t even bother to test, and we tended to find ourselves checking the main app thanks to all of them offering much deeper data on your phone or web portal, versus the tiny watch screen.
All three options do the same thing: track your sleep. Only the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System offers the soothing wave crashing sounds to aid in falling asleep, accompanied by the red ambient light. And Withings is the only one to have integrations with Nest, and Spotify. Withings also came out on top for accuracy of sending the start/end of our sleep, too. But it was also the most expensive, and that coupled with the lamp being a tad too large makes it a solid item, but tied for last in this shoot-out.
On the flip side there is the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor. We appreciated the simplicity of the app, and the web portal access which could aggregate your partner or other friends/family. But the overall experience left us wanting more. For individuals needing just a single sensor, this option beats the Withings, but falls short of the Sense. And for couples who want to record both users, the cost doesn’t make sense compared to the others, that can simply do more.
In the end, it was the Sense with Sleep Pill that earned our highest praise. From the more attractive app of the bunch, to the added features of air quality and humidity. For being able to tweak the data points to help continually increase the app’s accuracy, and for providing snippets of feedback that were always welcome, the whole experience with the Sense was simply the best.
Still in some ways, we wish a hybrid existed. Our favorite “sensors” were from Withings, as they were accurate, able to be cleaned when needed, and required no battery changes. Simply plug into the hub, and you’re all set. We liked the Sense hub for charm and design, but wish it had some more of the features the Withings had. In fact, we suspect over time the Withings lamp will get smaller, and/or the Sense hub more powerful. And when that happens, those two devices will improve enough to make the Beddit irrelevant in a market that they were one of the first to conquer.
Are you shopping for a sleep monitor? Do you already use your fitness wearable, and if so, do you find the sleep data it provides helpful? Sound off below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!