Sleep is great, but it is one area of our lives that frequently people skimp on. There are many sleep trackers on the market, but not all are created equally, especially when it comes to comparing a wrist-mounted unit with a bed mounted sleep tracker such as the Beddit Smart Sleep Monitor. What difference does a dedicated sleep tracker make, and is it worth buying a unit over your standard wrist activity monitor?
Beddit 3 Smart Sleep Monitor Review
The SKY team recognise the importance of the sleep. It is why during the races in which the team is competing, each athlete has their own portable bedroom kit
What I mean is that a member of the Sky Team support staff will have sourced a mattress similar to the riders home bed, but will also be tasked with bringing matched linens and select personal effects from home, which will then travel with the rider, aiming to make sleep as restorative as possible by mimicking the riders home environment.
Sleep is vital for the bodies recovery. Both of the muscles but as well as the mind. A well-rested athlete is both physically and mentally more capable, than a rider who has had the same duration but of poorer quality sleep. Researchers at Stanford University looked at increasing the sleep duration of basketball players to 10hrs per night, and in turn found their accuracy, and goal scoring improved by 9%.
The Britsh Journal of Sports Medicine frequently features articles on sleep, and it affects on performance on the BMJ Blogs – possibly in a tongue-in-cheek nod towards Team Sky BMJ used the #DefinatelyNotIllegal when talking about sleep optimisation and athletes
The same is seen away from the sporting world. Just look at the night shifts performed by many workers across all fields of science, business and industry. With reduced sleep, and crucially sleep quality, all metrics of measurement from responsiveness, to accuracy and confidence decrease
The BMJ has recently published an article looking at the health consequence of shift work, showing in changes shift from day to night have a significant deterioration in the quality of sleep. The point here is not just that poor sleep makes you a little grumpy, but can have a massive impact on productivity and the likelihood of making a mistake. This is the same for medics or other professionals.
As such, Beddit has set their whole focus to that of sleep. All of the companies previous products have been sleeping trackers in one form or another, and the new Beddit 3 is more of the same, but with refinements which come over three generations of development. Regarding that refinement, I have been looking at both the Beddit 2 and the new Beddit 3
Who are Beddit and where did they come from? Principally the brain of one man – Joonas Paalasmaa.
The CTO of the company, and crucially the Chief Scientist. A man so dedicated to sleep research, he wrote the book, well the PhD on monitoring sleep science anyway while at the University of Helsinki.
If you really want to get an insight into the true workings, and science behind the Beddit 3, spending an afternoon flicking through Paalasmaa’s PhD is truly illuminating. Which you can actually do with the help of the below link to the aforementioned PhD. (Here is a tip, find a comfy chair, and bring coffee!)
Beddit originally came to the market through an IndieGoGo campaign, but as mentioned has been on the market for 3 generations now, and has been given to accolate of being available for purchase in Apple Shops worldwide!
So given that we have a company focused on one area, that of sleep, let’s focus on the product!
Smart alarms are nothing new. Heck, your phone can do it with this right app, most wrist devices like the Fitbit Charge have rudimentary sleep tracking, but what differs between the products is the quality of the sensors.
We’ve seen the same with devices that have poor optical heart rate sensors; the device might give you beats per minute reading, up if that number given is not very accurate, then you can’t do much with the data regarding training or optimising your health
The Beddit 3 provides as a significantly more accurate sensor, than phone or wrist mounted sleep monitors, in the form of a strip placed under your mattress sheet to monitor your movement. The box doesn’t really give a great idea as to what you are buying regarding the outside, hence why it folds out to show the sensor while you are still in the shop
So what do you get in the box?
We’ve the Beddit sensors, an international USB plug adapter and the manual. I’m becoming very much a fan or the reduction in plastic bags etc. which used to be more common in products like this. Why does a manual need its own plastic bag?!
The actual Beddit sensor comes rolled up and is now housed within a material sheet, rather than the exposed sensor as seen with Beddit 2. The material on top of the sensor is smooth and soft, it’s quite unlikely you will feel this under your sheets
In contrast on the back, or attress facing side, we have many rubber, grippy dots to prevent the unit moving around in the night, affecting the readings
The Beddit sensor as mentioned is housed within it’s cover. The cover can be removed if you want to wash it, but it is a pain in the neck to get back in again, as it is like pushing a very flexible string into a tube. It tends to coil, rather than progress along
The unit is powered by USB, so you are going to loose a socket beside your bed. But the brains of the unit are also contained here, to allow the sensor to be as thin as possible, and less likely to disturb sleep
But interestingly the USB plug does have a few other tricks, enabling the Beddit 3 to monitor noise, temperature and humidity in your bedroom box,
Perhaps the temp and sound monitor would be more sensitive if the sensor was closer to the bed, rather than plugged into the wall, but that would also change the subtlety of the unit probably? However, it is certainly an upgrade compared to the previous Beddit 2, which is just a straight forward USB plug
Comparing the two units again, you see the major change between Beddit 2 and Beddit 3 – the fact that the Beddit 2 has an adhesive backing, which requires you to stick the unit to your mattress. By comparison, the Beddit 3 is just placed on the mattress, and doesn’t move much due to the grippy rubber back. This also extends the life of the unit, as you are not going to have issues when it comes to flipping your mattress, or if you want to take the Beddit 3 with you to use as an alarm when travelling.
- Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth 4.0
- Sensors: Heart Rate, Respiratory Rate, movement, temperature, humidity, sound
- Height: 0.06 in./0.15 cm
- Length: 31.5 in./80 cm
- Width: 3.1 in./8 cm
- Weight: 4.9 oz./139 g
Using the Device
Beddit advises that the sensor is placed at approximately chest level, and is then covered by a thin blanket. This is in contrast to the Withings Aura, which goes under the mattress. The Beddit 3 is sufficiently thin and wide that you don’t actually feel it when lying over it. In fact, the Beddit 2, while actually thinner and narrower, (shown for comparison above), was MORE noticeable, due to the fact is was stuck down to the mattress, and didn’t move as smoothly as a result.
The app is relatively easy to use, with the team having opted for a design providing information on the surface, and the more geeky aspects hidden deeper. Although some of the displays still left me a little foxed initially – I think that is because the “sleep score” as a proprietary metric from Beddit, so I didn’t really have anything to grade this against.
The main purpose of the app is two-fold. Firstly, to allow you to view your sleep data, which is interesting, but not particularly useful in the short term.
Secondarily to allow you to set the smart alarm. Personally, this is the main selling feature of the Beddit 3. The monitoring is only useful if you can do something with it!
Now speaking of monitoring generally, the Beddit 3 uses ballistocardiography to monitor your heart rate during sleep – essentially registering the minute vibrations that your heart transmits through your torso and into the bed. This is where you get to see some of the cool/geeky aspects of the Beddit 3. Of note, this is the same system employed in my electronic stethoscope to calculate heart rate while I’m also listening to a ppatient’sheart sounds
Before we go any further – What IS the Beddit sleep score?
A 0-100 scale, is the simplest answer. The green part of the circle indicates optimal sleep. The green bar is a fixed feature; it is what your orange sleep score is measured against.
The factors that determine your score are:
- 7-9 hours of sleep
- restful sleep
- steady patterns of breathing and heart rate
Interestingly Beddit does not including sleep stages in the calculation, whether the unit can make that determination or not.
I’m frequently a poor sleeper, so let’s compared a bad, with a good nights sleep:
So we’ve a poor sleep night, which appears to be largely based on time. Conversely, when I have slept well (or like the dead! 9 hours!!), there is clearly more of a sleep cycle to the pattern of my movements, but I’m not furnished with anything other than the sleep duration to suggest a significant impact on the score – as my efficiency, what ever that means, was good on both nights. As a result, I actually tend to disregard the score somewhat.
You can also view the sleep trends over 7, 30 or 90 days, all of which do tend to reinforce the suggestion that is it sleep duration taking the larger weighting when it comes to the Sleep Score calculation
One of the things that the Beddit 3 has highlighted, though, is that some of the poor night’s sleep may simply be due to the environment of my bedroom. As the plug part of the sensor registers that often my room is a little outside of the optimal sleep and humidity. It is interesting the Beddit 3 doesn’t provide any internal analysis, or suggestions to improve your sleep in the app, instead providing tips which are about as specific for sleep as “eat five fruit and veg” is for diet
Now we have an understanding of how the Beddit 3 works, you can use the Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker in one of two ways, allowing automatic sleep tracking to deal with making sure you wake up or doing it all manually as part of your pre-sleep routine. I’ll explain why I tend not to use the automatic sleep tracking:
Automatic sleep tracking
With the Beddit 2, auto-sleep tracking was available, using the proximity of your phone. Something I never got on with, as the unit would think I was going to bed when I was just in the same, room, which was irritating.
With the Beddit 3, the autodetection is supposed to happen when the unit detects your pressure on the bed. With the Beddit 3, I don’t know if it is an issue with the sensor or just the app, but I am left with a very similar approach as before. The system is locked, but at the same time states that the app is not connected to the sensor. As you can see, my weight is without a doubt, on both the bed, and the sensor, but no detection
In defence of Beddit, their help section for Automatic sleep measurement does state that the system can take between 1 and 10mins to detect that you are on the bed. Personally, I find it much easier to set the alarm manually when I get into bed, knowing it has been activated for the correct time (my shifts vary across the week)
On the same settings screen as choosing automatic measurement, you’ll notice that there is the option to indicate if there are two in the bed. Beddit didn’t seem to have any issues with clearly false readings, which I tested by having Amy getting into the bed at a different point, and also rolling from her side to her back, all without a hitch
Beddit 3 Alarm function
Personally, the smart alarm is the major feature of the Beddit 3. The Withings Aura may work as a smart alarm, but you are certainly not going to travel with it. I have consistently found that I wake more effectively, and feeling less like the woken dead, using a smart sleep alarm. The concept being that the device monitors your activity and wakes you in the lighter portions of sleep, so you feel less groggy
In many ways, the Withings Aura is over kill there, with the lights, sounds and myriad of variations. The Beddit 3 does that same, but with less fuss, and an easier installation. Also Amy tends to be woken less by the Beddit 3 than the Aura going off. So that might be a consideration if you have someone sleeping next to you, not having to get up at the same time
When it does come to going to sleep, whether you are trusting to the automatic detection to activate, or manually switched to say you are going sleep, after the Beddit 3 has started monitoring you, if you tap on the bottom graph on the alarm page you can get access to the live monitoring data
It is rather mesmerising to lie in bed and watch your own graphs, for heart rate and breathing moving along. I did find myself trying to make my breathing curve as smooth as possible. I don’t know if that is a Zen thing, but certainly felt relaxing! Perhaps Beddit have missed a trick, and should have included a breathing activity kin to that on the Fitbit?
But at the end of the day, you select your alarm, put the phone down, and hope to sleep. That is about it.
The Beddit 3, like the Apple shop it can be found in, is about simplification of concepts, and improving function delivered to the end user. The science behind the Beddit 3 is without a doubt solid, but at the same time, the end user doesn’t really have access to the data that the Beddit 3 generates to make that science a reality. This is made very clear with the gross simplification that is the Sleep Score – it is dumbed down to such a degree that I don’t personally put any weight in the number at all. Remember that data is only valuable if it can be used, I can’t really do anything with the Sleep Score, I cant improve my sleep with it. In contrast however, I do get a significant amount of use from is the smart alarm – yes it is still a black box, you set the alarm and the Beddit 3 does it’s thing – but it works, and in terms of an alarm I’m happy with that!
There are many other smart alarms on the market, from wrist-based options, all the way through the monitoring that is just using your phone’s accelerometer. The question is what you consider to be the reasonable value. At £129 the Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker certainly isn’t an impulse purchase, but some people consider that £50-60 is not unreasonable for a non-smart radio alarm clock, designed simply to wake you at an arbitrary time. Personally given the ease with which the Beddit helps me wake, I’m happy with the cost to entry
The Beddit 3 works, particularly from an alarm clock standpoint. However, the geek in me wishes that I was able to get more than very superficial sleep data as the end user.
I’m going to say 3/4 on a TitaniumGEEK score – the clue is in the name, GEEK I want more data, although perhaps someone who s happier with the simple plug and play approach might bump the score up to 4/,5 as the alarm is effective, and the system is very compact, and can easily be taken with you when travelling