The Apple Watch Series 6 ($350 and up) felt like the opposite of the Oura in many ways. It’s the largest of the wrist-worn devices and features a large, colorful display. But instead of the granular details of the Oura and other devices, the Apple Watch offers weekly trends that provide an overview of the bigger picture. If a mountain of sleep data just makes you more worried about your sleep — as it was for me — the Apple Watch’s low-key approach might help you stop worrying.
One caveat: The Apple Watch Series 6 only delivers 18 hours of battery life, according to Apple, which meant that if I wore it overnight, I had to set aside time for charging during the day. Apple has released a Series 7 watch with a larger display and claims slightly faster charging (but not longer battery life), but its sleep-tracking capabilities shouldn’t change much. The new model is available from Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart.
The other devices range more between these two extremes. the Oops 3.0 (free with a $30 monthly membership) is also minimalist: a nylon strap with a prominent buckle that houses the sensors and battery, a simple LED battery gauge, and no display. The Whoop itself is a little less elegant than the Oura. I found the band a little scratchy and uncomfortable overnight (although other bands are available), and I found it difficult to plug the Whoop into its charger at times.
Like the Oura, the whoop strap, endorsed by some pro athletes, sees sleep as a recovery parameter in the bigger picture of overall performance. It makes specific — and useful — workout suggestions based in part on your sleep patterns. Whoop recently introduced a Whoop 4.0, which has a slightly smaller strap and additional sensors.
Then there’s the question of whoop’s cost. While the whoop strap is technically free – you get the device when you sign up for a subscription program – the ongoing fees can quickly add up. A two-year membership priced at $30 a month could add up to $720, although signing up for a longer-term membership can bring the cost down to $18 a month. The new device is available from Whoop.
Garmin and Fitbit are both full-featured wrist-worn fitness trackers that could otherwise be tossed in a gym bag when not on the sleep-tracking service. They offer good value for money and provide their sleep data in a simple way that can be drilled down if you want more detailed data.
I found the monochrome screen of the Fitbit Charge 4 ($130) Easy to read, but a detailed review of my sleep data required using Fitbit’s smartphone app. While the information was pretty comprehensive, delving even deeper into the data requires signing up to the $10-per-month Fitbit Premium program. But the Fitbit’s low price combined with its extensive fitness and sleep monitoring features earned it the “Great Value” label.
The first Charge 4 purchased by CR worked fine at the beginning, but stopped providing full sleep data halfway through. After checking with Fitbit, who suggested the first device was probably broken, I bought another Charge 4, which worked fine. The newer Charge 5 has a slimmer body and color screen, but Fitbit says its sleep-tracking performance should be similar. It is available from Abt Electronics, Amazon, Best Buy, Fitbit, Lowe’s and Macy’s.
I thought the Garmin Vivosmart4 ($130) couldn’t quite decide. The slim, low-profile device tries to be unobtrusive like the Whoop and Oura, but I found its tiny display more distracting than useful. The Garmin smartphone app focuses primarily on total sleep, but provides easy-to-understand graphs of sleep stages, while a graph of seven-day sleep averages helped me identify and analyze my longer-term sleep patterns. The device is available from Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.
The headband mounted Muse S ($350) is in many ways the most ambitious sleep monitor I’ve reviewed. It measures sleep stages directly from electrical activity, much like the sophisticated brainwave monitors found in sleep labs.
Unfortunately the execution was lacking. I found the Muse uncomfortable, and it sometimes took me half an hour to get and maintain a solid connection. And I often woke up with a crooked device. (Muse said my connectivity issue was likely caused by a production issue that has since been fixed. I found a second Muse S worked slightly better.) And unlike the other devices I evaluated, the Muse is a sleep-tracking monotasker — it is not something you would wear out of bed. On the plus side, the meditation and mindfulness scripts in the app might help you relax. The Muse S has been replaced with a slightly modified 2.0 version available from Muse.