The Apple Watch Series 6 ($350 and up) felt in many ways like the opposite of the Oura. It’s the largest of the wrist-worn devices and sports a big, colorful display. But instead of the granular detail of the Oura and other devices, the Apple Watch serves up weekly trends that present a big-picture view. If having a mountain of sleep data simply makes you worry more about your sleep—as it did for me—the Apple Watch’s restrained approach might help you stop fretting.
One drawback: The Apple Watch Series 6 delivers only 18 hours of battery life, according to Apple, which meant that if I wore it overnight, I needed to make time during the day to recharge it. Apple has come out with a Series 7 Watch with a bigger display and claims slightly faster charging (but not longer battery life), but its sleep-tracking functions shouldn’t change much. The new model is available at Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.
The other devices tend to slot between these two extremes. The Whoop 3.0 (free with a $30 monthly membership) is also minimalist: a nylon wrist strap with a prominent buckle that houses the sensors and rechargeable battery, a simple LED battery-level indicator, and no display. The Whoop itself is a little less elegant than the Oura. I found the band a bit scratchy and uncomfortable overnight (although other bands are available), and I sometimes found it difficult to attach the Whoop to its charger.
Like the Oura, the Whoop strap, which is endorsed by some professional athletes, sees sleep as a recovery parameter in the bigger picture of total performance. It makes concrete—and useful—training suggestions based in part on your sleep patterns. Whoop has recently introduced a Whoop 4.0, which has a slightly smaller strap and additional sensors.
Then there’s the question of the 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 add up quickly. Two years of membership at the $30 monthly rate could total $720, although signing up for a longer-term membership can reduce the cost to $18 per month. The new device is available from Whoop.
The Garmin and Fitbit are both full-featured wrist-worn fitness trackers that might otherwise be tossed into a gym bag when they’re not on sleep-tracking duty. They offer good value and serve up their sleep data in a straightforward way that can be broken down when you want more granular data.
I found the monochrome screen of the Fitbit Charge 4 ($130) easy to read, but a detailed review of my sleep data required the use of Fitbit’s smartphone app. While the information was quite comprehensive, an even deeper dive into the data requires enrolling in the $10-a-month Fitbit Premium program. But the Fitbit’s low price combined with its extensive fitness and sleep-monitoring capabilities earned it a Good Value designation.
The first Charge 4 purchased by CR worked fine at the start but stopped yielding full sleep data halfway through. After consulting with Fitbit, which suggested that the first device was probably broken, I bought another Charge 4, which worked fine. The newer Charge 5 has a sleeker case and color screen, but Fitbit says its sleep-tracking performance should be similar. It’s available at Abt Electronics, Amazon, Best Buy, Fitbit, Lowe’s, and Macy’s.
I thought the Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($130) couldn’t quite make up its mind. The slim, low-profile device tries to be unobtrusive, like the Whoop and the Oura, but I found its tiny display more distracting than useful. The Garmin smartphone app focuses mainly on total sleep but does provide easy-to-follow graphics about sleep stages, while a chart with seven-day sleep averages helped me spot and analyze my longer-term sleep patterns. The device is available at Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.
The headband-mounted Muse S ($350) is, in many ways, the most ambitious sleep-monitoring device I evaluated. It measures sleep stages directly using electrical activity, similar to the sophisticated brainwave monitors in sleep labs.
Unfortunately, the execution was lacking. I found the Muse uncomfortable, and it sometimes took a half-hour to get and keep a solid connection. And I often awoke with the device askew. (Muse said that my connection issue was probably caused by a since-rectified production problem. I found that a second Muse S worked somewhat better.) And unlike the other devices I evaluated, the Muse is a sleep-monitoring monotasker—it’s not something that you’d wear outside of bed. On the positive side, the meditation and mindfulness scripts on the app might help you relax. The Muse S has been replaced by a slightly modified 2.0 version, available at Muse.