Every day is a “something” day, and today is no exception. It’s World Sleep Day and I know I’m not alone that when I say those words out loud I know there’s a debt in my life that can never be repaid.
This all aligns rather well with the fact I’ve been testing out the Withings Sleep Analyzer after recently making enquiries with the company about its wider range of health tracking products. You ask to test a smart scale, you end up sleeping on a fancy new sleep analyser. It’s the way things roll in tech reviewing.
Given the sleep day thing it seemed best to give a quick report on the experience so far with this one.
The far and away best feature here is that you set it up under your mattress and then forget you ever decided to start tracking your sleep properly. No wristbands, no watch to charge at the right time of day so it’s good for the next day and the nighttime too, no other things to remember to do.
That first setup takes about 10 minutes, which is the time to unbox it, get it in position (roughly where your chest lies on your bed), plug it in (USB-A but it comes with a power point AND the cable is really long so it should reach wherever you need it to), and sign into the Health Mate app. Then there’s a calibration phase where you stay off the bed and it works out what the norm is without you on it.
Withings says the Sleep Analyzer works with spring, foam, latex and memory foam mattresses between 10 and 40cm thick, so pretty much ‘all’ beds. I have a fancy pillow top thick spring mattress and so far so good for me.
What gets tracked here is your sleep cycles (deep, light, and REM), total sleep time, time it took to fall asleep, sleep apnea detection, snoring detection, and heart rate tracking. It sends all the data over Wi-Fi, but while you’re asleep it shuts down the Wi-Fi to make sure none of the nervous nellies out there about wireless radiation have anything to worry about.
The app is careful to express that the sleep apnea tracking is not officially diagnostic – all care, no responsibility here – but if you do start getting some bad readings it’s probably not a bad idea to seek professional advice. And remember there’s a distinction between snoring and apnea. I apparently snored for about an hour last night but was fine on the apnea front (I’m a bit sick, so the snoring made sense).
By the time you’ve gotten out of bed and started to check your phone your nightly results are uploaded to the cloud.
What’s nice with this one is getting a Sleep Score instead of just raw data points to interpret based on your general lack of expertise in what any of the numbers really mean. It’s a number out of 100 and it just makes it easy to look at it and think “yeah, that wasn’t a good night” or “oh, well done me!” If you can get that number trending upward you’re in a good place.
All those data points are there, and they can sync with whatever data service you want them in if you don’t just want to use the Health Mate app from Withings. I’ve got my syncing up with Apple Health Kit data, for example.
For those also enjoying a serious smart home setup, you can have your Sleep Analyzer trigger other smart home actions around the house just by lying down in bed or getting out. That could be Philips Hue lighting systems shutting down for the night, or any other IFTTT powered trigger you like.
The biggest complaint here is a lack of actionable intelligence. What exactly do you do with this data apart from keep yourself accountable? I’m personally happy with exactly that. To have put this on my bed is to have the same accountability I have to myself when I step onto scales. But like the scales, I know that this kind of data driven accountability is not for everyone and is actually harmful to some people. So it’s important o know what you want to know about yourself, and if sleep insights are what you’re after then this is a great product to get that done without ever needing to remember it was a promise you made to yourself.
I have found the heartrate tracking the surprise bonus I wasn’t expecting. I’m doing a lot more fitness work lately during my waking hours, and knowing your baseline heartrate is getting lower is a good sign of overall fitness. The Sleep Analyzer is giving me that sense of base heartrate that I’ve struggled to make time for elsewhere in my day.
It’s easy, and reports suggest the data is well validated, and all you have to do to learn something is just add sleep. For mine, it’s nice to stop worrying about trying to get into a routine where I use my Apple Watch to do this task. This is so much more comfortable than wearing a watch all night and managing the charge timings during the day.
At $199, it’s a pretty solid investment if you’re keen to make yourself more accountable to yourself for trying to develop better sleep habits.