Sleep is critical for our everyday well-being, but also our running performance and recovery. Busy lives, training and even habits such as eyeballing screens late at night can affect the sleep quantity and quality. By using a dedicated sleep tracking device, or the ever-improving sleep modules of many newer GPS watches and activity bands, you can track overall sleep time, see how your performance adds up for different sleep stages and get coaching on how to improve those z’s. We have found that tracking our shut-eye with these devices and reflecting on what pre-bed factors affect our sleep performance has over time seen us getting better, more consistent sleep (even when we can’t get more sleep).
Change Your Sheets
Beddit, recently acquired by Apple, was one of the earliest and is still among the most complete sleep-monitoring and coaching systems. Unlike the others here, Beddit 3 is 100 percent focused on sleep. It combines a thin under-sheet sensor strip ($150, beddit.com) that pairs to your smartphone and its microphone, so there is nothing to wear. It evaluates not only one person’s movement, respiration rate and resting heart rate but also other factors that impact your sleep quality, such as the temperature and humidity of your bedroom and snoring. The app provides a daily sleep score that takes into account your snooze success.
Watching You Sleep
Fitbit’s latest heart-rate-sensing bands and watches (Alta HR, Blaze, and Charge 2, $150-plus, fitbit.com) have recently been upgraded to include a sophisticated sleep-quality monitoring and coaching system. Using a combination of motion and heart rate, these wrist devices identify and quantify sleep stages (awake, light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep), as we cycle through them multiple times per night. Each cycle and stages within are critical to recharging our nervous, immune and musculoskeletal systems as well as our mental faculties. “Sleep Insights” include age and gender benchmarks, 30-day averages and tips to help improve sleep.
Inside Your Head and Heart
Similar in technical approach to Fitbit and Beddit, Whoop Strap 2.0 ($500, whoop.com) uses a combination of motion and heart-rate variability (HRV) to identify sleep stages. It is very light, comfortable, screen-less and designed to be worn 24/7 with all data displayed in the app and website. In addition to sleep stages, you can see your night’s HRV, the number of sleep cycles, disturbances and delays in falling asleep. That information is compared to your recent trends for analysis. In the early evening, Whoop tells you how much sleep is needed to “get by, perform or peak” based on that day’s training and overall heart stress. When you wake up, Whoop not only scores your sleep performance versus the night’s target, but also scores a combination of your HRV and sleep to give you recovery guidance. A questionnaire asks you to reflect on pre-bed screen time, alcohol, caffeine, etc., to influence future behavior.
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CAN I JUST USE MY GPS WATCH? New GPS watches and activity bands from Garmin and Polar now include motion-based sleep tracking. They are not quite as sophisticated in terms of analyzing stages and cycles, since they don’t use heart rate, and may feel bulky in bed. We find they can overestimate actual sleep—sometimes confusing it with time still in bed. Polar’s Sleep Plus gives you a sleep-continuity score as well as graphs of sleep time versus average and preferred. Garmin’s sleep module goes further showing you deep, light and awake time as well as graphs for night movement.