The best sleep apps and gadgets for a better night’s sleep
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Every year, many of us put things like “eat better,” “stress less” and “get in shape” on our New Year’s resolutions lists. And sleep can play a big part in achieving all of those goals. Missing out on rest makes us eat junk and pumps up stress hormones to the detriment of pretty much every other way we try to better ourselves. Thankfully, technology can help; in addition to just reminding us to take enough time to sleep, as the bedtime modes on your iPhone or Android device do, there are other gadgets that can help make the sleep you do get deeper and more restful. For those who need a little extra help getting some shut-eye in 2023, here are a few gadgets to help you sleep that we’ve tried that could work for you, too.
Oura’s smart ring tracks your activity during the day and your sleep at night (or whenever it is you go to bed), giving you an overall score from one to 100 each morning. Using temperature, movement, blood oxygen and pulse sensors, Oura gains insight into how long you stay in the various sleep stages and uses that data to offer suggestions on ways to get better quality rest. When we tested it out, we called it the “perfect wearable for people who don’t like wearables,” appreciating the data it provides while slipping seamlessly into everyday life. After a few days of wearing it, our reviewer quickly started to ignore its presence, which means you’re probably much more likely to wear it to bed than a fitness band.
Since it doesn’t have a screen, all of Oura’s information comes to you via the companion app. That lack of screen is also the reason you can squeeze up to seven days of battery life out of it, an important feature since no device can track your sleep if it has to spend its nights on a charger.
Fitbit Inspire 3
If you prefer a wearable with a screen, a fitness tracker is arguably better than a smartwatch when it comes to sleep tracking since they tend to be less obtrusive and have longer battery life. That means you’re more likely to wear it to bed many nights in a row, until it eventually has to be recharged. Far more affordable than the Oura, Fitbit’s Inspire 3 is our budget pick for the best fitness tracker right now, and it does a good job tracking your Zs.
It runs for around $100 and has similar sensors to the Oura, including heart rate, temp, movement and blood oxygen. The company has put a lot of effort into expanding their sleep metrics, and the app can offer you detailed insights into how long you’re spending in each stage of sleep. Even without the premium membership, you’ll get a sleep score each morning. With the $10-per-month membership, you get a more detailed breakdown of the score, so you can better track your sleeping trends over time. Along with that, the alarm on the Inspire 3 can wake you up when you’re in a lighter sleep stage so coming back online isn’t as jarring.
Eight Sleep Pod 3
If you don’t want a wearable at all, the Sleep Pod 3 from Eight Sleep will track your metrics and give you a sleep score. It also heats or cools your side of the bed and wakes you up with a subtle rumble beneath your chest. The mattress-and-cover combo goes for between $3,000 and $4,400, depending on the size and thickness of the mattress, which puts it well above any traditional wearable in terms of affordability. The bulk of the cost is in the cover, which conceals tubing through which warm or cool water flows from an external base, regulating the temp, while sensors in the cover monitor your sleep.
You can buy the cover alone and that will save you between $900 and $1,900 off the sticker price, but it’s still not cheap. You’ll also need a $19 per month subscription to access all the sleep tracking features. But in our review, with a score of 81, our reviewer (and new dad) Sam Rutherford said the Pod 3 has delivered some of the best sleep he’s ever had.
Part sunrise alarm clock, part audio machine, the Hatch Restore made the cut in our guide to smart lights for its ability to help out before, during and after sleep. To get you to dreamland, the Restore offers guided exercises and sleep stories, and to keep you asleep once you get there, you have your pick of white or pink noise sounds. To wake up, the gentle sunrise alarm slowly brightens, mimicking the sunrise and priming your brain for morning. The caveat here is that you’ll need a subscription to access the library of sleep meditations and guides, and that currently goes for $5 a month or $50 per year.
Personally, the best thing I’ve done for my sleep is banishing my phone from the bedroom, so it may seem ironic to add a smartphone app to this list. Headspace, however, has the opposite effect on sleep that social media does. Like the Hatch Restore, this app has an extensive library of meditations and exercises to help you relax and fall asleep.
I prefer the shorter, wind-down segments that last a few minutes and help you do a full body scan to relax. Longer “Sleepcasts” run around 45 minutes and tell you stories in calm voices – there are even a few Star Wars-themed tales, but those just made me want to get up and watch more Andor. Sleep music and soundscapes combine ambient sounds with tones and melodies, lasting up to 500 minutes. And perhaps most critically, there’s a “Nighttime SOS” page, with guided exercises to help you get back to sleep if you wake up with bad dreams, work stress or something else.
A subscription goes for $70 a year or $13 a month. In addition to sleep content, you also get daytime meditations and sessions that help you breathe, focus and manage stress, which can also help with sleep. If you do decide to bring Headspace into the bedroom, make sure you have your phone’s sleep focus or bedtime mode turned on before you do, otherwise nighttime spam emails and Messenger alerts will undo all of the good work your sleep app just rendered.
Philips Hue Smart Lights
We think Philips Hue White + Color are the best smart light bulbs you can buy, and certain features can even help with sleep, such as programming them to change to a warmer color when it’s getting close to bedtime. You not only get a subtle hint that it’s time to wind down, but also the warmer tones have lower levels of sunlight-mimicking blue light and can help your brain prepare for sleep. You also have the ability to control them using your voice, so instead of getting out of bed to shut off the lights, you can ask Alexa or the Google Assistant to do it for you.
Felix Gray blue light blocking glasses
Speaking of blue light, it’s not great for sleep. But the habit of staring at screens isn’t going anywhere, which is why blue light-blocking glasses exist. I’ll admit I first thought they were a gimmick, but have since come to rely on the pair I bought from Felix Gray. The science seems to check out and do I notice a difference with my sleep patterns when I wear them versus when I don’t. I initially only wore them in the evening hours, when I was working past 5PM or otherwise still using my computer. Now I wear them basically all day because I feel like they help my eyes feel far less tired. They come with or without your prescription and in enough styles to make them your own.
Bearaby weighted blanket
You’ve probably met someone who swears by their weighted blanket. Our colleague Nicole Lee is one of them. As someone plagued by insomnia, she finds she’s “nodding off faster and staying asleep longer” with the Bearaby weighted blanket and recommends it as one of our top self-care gifts. Unlike other weighted blankets that are filled with glass or plastic beads, Bearaby comforters are hand-knit from a heavyweight cotton, Tencel or eco-velvet, looking more like enormous scarves than a bland sleep aid.
Manta sleep mask
While blue light is bad before bed, any type of light hitting your eyelids can keep you from reaching those deeper levels of sleep. Along with blackout curtains and shutting off the nightlight, we recommend this sleep mask from Manta. There are a ton of sleep masks out there, but Engadget weekend editor Igor Bonifacic finds this one to be better than the rest and recommends it for travelers in our guide. It has removable, repositionable eye cups for a customized fit and they stand up to their claim of blocking out 100 percent of ambient light. You can also buy additional eye cups that you can microwave to provide a warming effect, or eye cups wrapped in silk that will be gentler on your skin and others.