Sleep. Those lost hours fascinate us, and the insights offered by sleep monitors and fitness trackers is part of their appeal.
Scientists have been mapping our sleep patterns for years and agree that good diet, low stress and plenty of exercise can help us sleep better, but in a constantly connected world filled with deadlines, dramas, snoring loved-ones and screaming children getting a good kip can be nigh on impossible.
But can connected technology come to the rescue? We've tracked down the very latest in sleep inducing technology that promises to make your nights longer, mornings easier and even tackle snoring partners.
The Aura is a complete kit for those who regularly suffer from poor sleep. It works by tracking your sleep patterns and then waking you up during your lightest sleep phase, thereby preventing bear-with-a-sore-head syndrome.
The visible part of the system is a strange-looking beside lamp that monitors your sleeping environment (noise pollution and temperature) while soothing you with new age sounds and gentle, slowly fluctuating light patterns. Meanwhile, a thin sensor pad under the mattress monitors your sleep patterns throughout the night and sends all the data it collects – heart rate, motion and respiration – to the bedside lamp device which then calculates the most efficient time to gently rouse you from slumber.
Essential reading: Sleep monitors explained - rest longer and feel better
Dedicated iOS and Android apps let you visualise your sleep patterns and program preferred light sequences and music. The Aura, one of just a handful of sensor-equipped sleep trackers, works much more efficiently than the surfeit of wristband versions out there, but then it is a lot more expensive.
Beddit Smart 2.0
Based on something health professionals call ballistocardiography (BCG), the second generation Beddit Smart ultra-thin sensor tucks under your bed sheets and gathers data on sleep quality, duration, heart rate and respiration rate. It will then automatically track your sleep, without having to be told when you're in bed, which goes a long way to taking the fuss out of sleep tracking.
The Beddit sensor slips under the top sheet of your bed, and uses Bluetooth Low Energy to connect to your smartphone, which harvests the data. Beddit says that the Bluetooth connection will be made automatically when your smartphone is placed within range.
Sense is a sleep tracker that, rather than strapping to your wrist as you kip, clips onto your pillow instead. The Pill unit detects the amount of movement you make during the night and the processing is done by the unit pictured.
It receives the information from the Pill and collates it together with temperature, ambient light and even noise as well for an almost complete profile of your nightly routine and sources that might be affecting it.
The idea is that Sense will then be able to figure out what you need to change in order to get a better night's rest. You might be able to buy thicker curtains or turn down the radiators.
The bevy of biosensors on the Jawbone Up3 mean that sleep tracking is one area it should excel. The company claims that by monitoring a user's heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response, it would be able to tell the difference between REM, light and deep sleep in better detail than rival devices.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
Tuck your smartphone (iOS or Android) under your bed sheet and Sleep Cycle uses the phone's accelerometer to keep tabs on your nighty activity and wake you during your lightest sleep phase. A whole lot cheaper than a dedicated sleep tracker – and a whole lot more limited – but the phone still collates bags of data and gives you a good overview of your sleep patterns.
Set your alarm as usual and the app uses the sleep data to choose the best time (within a 30 minute window) to wake you up. It won't completely eliminate the shock of the alarm in the morning, but it will wake you during lighter sleep, which should help reduce the foggy morning feeling.
Unlike most sleep trackers that rely on motion detection, SleepRate uses a wireless chest strap heart rate monitor to accurately track your body as it sleeps. Combined with your phone's microphone which records noise, the app can correlate quality of sleep and environmental factors – everything from unpredictable events such as car alarms to snoring partners.
Use the app and heart rate monitor for five nights and your sleep data will be used to create a personal sleep assistant to help turn the analytics into useful, practical information. The app will give detailed instructions based on your sleep patterns – from the best time to wake up, how to encourage sleep and ideas on tweaking your biological clock.
This alarm clock syncs wirelessly to a pair of motion detecting sweatbands and uses the data to determine the perfect time to wake you and your partner up in the morning.
When you go to bed, set your alarm and then activate the sensor inside the wristband. This measures your movements during the night so the clock can wake you at the best point up to 30 minutes before your alarm is due to sound.
It's can certainly help you wake more refreshed, and with no snooze button there's no chance to nap but you are still woken by a traditional audible alarm rather than a more gentle vibration or wake-up light.
With virtually all fitness bands already boasting a sleep tracking mode it can be difficult to choose one that does it better than the rest. They all offer very similar motion sensing, REM sleep phase tracking and a host of graphs and tables keeping you informed, but for sheer comfort while you sleep you'll not find better than the Misfit Shine.
Impossibly small and light, it can be worn on your wrist, as a pendant or clipped onto your pyjamas and most importantly you won't notice it's there, and with no bulky edges you'll not roll onto it or catch your partner with it.