Making our bed smart with Sleeptracker
Like most data geeks, we have been experimenting with tracking our sleep for years as part of our quest to be more healthy. Recently we heard about the Beautyrest Sleeptracker and decided to try making our bed a smart bed.
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First, let’s talk about how we got here. We tried fitness trackers, starting with the Jawbone UP (RIP), then moved on to Fitbit. While we enjoyed using the step tracking for both of these devices, wearing it to bed was uncomfortable, plus we had to remember to “start” the sleep activity – not the most natural thing to to think about when you are sleepy.
We used our Fitbits for years and even got a Fitbit Aria smart scale that we still use. But when the Apple Watch came out, with its myriad of other functions above and beyond fitness tracking, we dropped our Fitbits for good. We understand you can track your sleep with apps on the Apple Watch, but it has never been something we looked into. It’s just uncomfortable to wear a watch or a bracelet to bed.
In 2015, we found the Mother, a cute little customizable Internet of Things hub, and used its included sleep app to track our sleep for several years. We put small sensors, called “cookies,” underneath the sheet, just under each of our pillows. The cookies tracked our sleep fairly accurately and allowed us to monitor it on a dashboard and make daily adjustments on our bedtime/wake time. We could see visually on the graph the different levels of deep sleep and light sleep, and Mother sent us a helpful report every week with our average stats.
Unfortunately, our Mother stopped working recently when its parent company went out of business. Not only was this a bummer for us regular users – when the Sen.se servers went down, we lost access to all of our sleep data, going back to 2015. All we have left are the weekly reports that were emailed to us with the summary data. This is a risk you take for the convenience of only storing your data in the cloud. Luckily it was just sleep data and not something more important to our home or health.
Honestly, we weren’t really watching our sleep data that closely until we got another new gadget to try – the BedJet. Using the BedJet to keep our bed cool at night felt great, but we naturally wanted to back that up with data! It was only then we discovered our Mother had gone offline and we needed to find an alternative. We did some searching online and found the Sleeptracker, and after reading some positive reviews we decided to give it a try.
The Sleeptracker system comes with three parts – a sleep processor that plugs into the wall and connects to WiFi, and two monitors that attach to it and go under the mattress, one under each sleeper’s pillow position. You can use it with one or two sleepers in the same bed, with an individual sleep tracking account for each person.
Connecting the system is simple with the included instructions and the installation video. Since we have a king bed, we placed our sensors centered under each pillow position, underneath the mattress. For queen or smaller beds, Sleeptracker recommends you place the sensors closer to the edge of the bed so it can tell the two sleepers apart. We have a memory foam mattress so we were concerned it wouldn’t work, but it does just fine. Sleeptracker claims it works with virtually any type of mattress.
Once the sensors are connected and the processor is plugged in, we downloaded the Sleeptracker app to complete the installation. The app is really easy to use and walks you through the entire setup process for the first sleeper. We connected our Sleeptracker unit to the app via the included QR code and then connected the system to our WiFi network. Sleeptracker also has some simple, easy-to-use setup videos on their site.
Starting with the first user, we followed the directions to set up an account first. Once you’ve added the account and accepted the terms of service, the app asks you to set an initial sleep goal, set up automatic sleep recording, select whether or not you share your bed with a pet and/or your partner, and set your regular to bed and wake up times as well as an optional reminder to go to bed. You can adjust all of these settings later, which we have done as we continue to use the product.
After the first user was set up, we added another user to the smart bed through the app. Sleeptracker makes this very easy by sending a code to the second user. This is a necessary step since each sleeper needs their own account to monitor and store the data. Once both are set up you can adjust the users including their preferred side of the bed.
The SleepTracker is a very powerful device that collects a lot of data and uses artificial intelligence to help understand sleep patterns and how they are related to your age, height, weight, etc. We think it is a good idea for everyone to understand how companies like FullPower are using your data to draw conclusions about sleep, like this article about how a recent bay area earthquake impacted residents. For us, we felt that the insights about our sleep and the relative low cost of the Sleeptracker made it a good tradeoff for the data we are sharing with the system and the scientific research benefits. There is a lot of detailed information about the research insights available within the app itself as well as more sleep information on the Sleeptracker website.
Sleeptracker in action and the daily Sleep Score
We set up Sleeptracker to automatically record our sleep and have been amazed so far by the accuracy and the breadth of the data it captures. Every day we get a sleep score between 1 and 100, based on the total number of hours slept, and the amount of deep, light and REM sleep. Digging into the score itself, you can see a detailed graph of how you slept across the night, when and if you were awake at all, and the times and percentages of each type of sleep.
So far, it seems like the score goes up the more sleep you get, which makes sense. In addition, the sensor is able to measure both heart rate and breathing rate, and looking at the Apple Health app, it looks like it is recording and reporting it about every five minutes throughout the night. On nights when we know we haven’t slept well and have a correspondingly low sleep score, we have been able to see the difference in the heart rate and the percentage of deep sleep. Both of us also like to read in bed, and it fascinating to see that the Sleeptracker can tell the difference between being in bed and actually sleeping.
Optionally, you can have the Sleeptracker ask you some questions each day about things that may impact your sleep, like exercise, eating before bed, stress, alcohol use and screen time. Over time this can help us better understand ways we could improve our sleep in the future.
We connected each of our Sleeptracker accounts to Alexa. When we wake up, we can say to Alexa, “Ask Sleeptracker how I slept last night?” and after the initial sleep recording has ended and the data has been processed (usually a couple of minutes), she will tell us our sleep score and optionally, our daily behavioral insights – things like how our bedtime is trending, how our stats compare to others, or tips on how to improve. The only hassle with using Alexa is that we have to tell her to “switch” Amazon accounts each time to get the others’ information – but it’s not a big deal as you just say “Alexa Switch” and there are only two of us.
The Sleeptracker app also includes an optional alarm, that is designed to optimally wake you up at your chosen time without interrupting your deep sleep. Instead of setting just the particular time, you give it a window between 10 and 90 minutes around your preferred wake up time. You can customize the tone, choose a song from iTunes and set your preferred volume, then leave your phone near your bed to play the alarm.
We just started trying this feature and so far it has dutifully gone off at the beginning of the window, 30 minutes ahead of the time set, so we have been trying to play with it to dial it in a bit closer to an actual time. Ideally we know that if we were in a nice sleeping rhythm, we would wake up naturally without an alarm, but that doesn’t seem realistic yet.
Future smart home integrations
Since we were first drawn to the Sleeptracker after getting our BedJet, we think it would be great if we could connect the two devices somehow, so we could not only track how the temperature impacted our sleep but perhaps proactively turn up the BedJet to keep the temperature at the best level for sleeping.
We could also see the potential for a lot of other integrations, from adjusting our Haiku fan for cooling/heating, working with the Nest thermostat, to turning on the lights at our optimal wake up time. It seems that Sleeptracker is already thinking this way since they include a Smart Home section on their site, which only includes Alexa today. We look forward to seeing what they come up with!
We enthusiastically recommend the Sleeptracker for anyone who is interested in sleeping better. If you are in the market for a brand-new bed, you can look for the technology included in beds from Beautyrest, Serta and Tomorrow Sleep, or you can make your current bed a smart bed by picking up one like ours from Amazon. While we are a bit concerned about how much data is being collected, we have been really pleased with what we’ve learned about our own sleep so far.