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Fitbit vs. Sleep Cycle: The Battle of the Slumber Sensors

Fitbit vs. Sleep Cycle: The Battle of the Slumber Sensors

Fitbits have long dominated the fitness tracker market, with their lightweight wearable technology proving to be a hit with gym goers.

Their latest model, the smart watch-esque Fitbit Blaze has delved into the depths of dreamland however and taken to tracking users’ slumber in order to provide a better rounded outlook of their general health.

I personally got a Fitbit Blaze for Christmas, and as a keen sleep tracker I was excited to see exactly how it compared to Sleep Cycle, the app I’ve used religiously for over a year.

Well, since I had both I figured why not test both?

Fitbit Vs. Sleep Cycle: The Review

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How Easy are They to Sleep With?

Fitbit: Ease of use
While the Fitbit Blaze model is the brand’s biggest device to date, it was surprisingly easy to sleep with.

The Blaze aims to be more than simply a fitness tracker and more of a lifestyle guru.

With that in mind, it is a smartwatch (of sorts, it doesn’t have all of the same features), with a tracker included.

Admittedly this did worry me slightly to begin with, as in order for the sleep tracking feature to work, it does require you to wear it to bed, and since I slept on a memory foam mattress, I was a little worried it would be too much of a hassle.

Would the weight and overall chunkiness of the Blaze hinder my attempts to achieve a good night’s rest?
Thankfully however, my worries proved to be inconsequential as the lightweight design means that although the Blaze is roughly the same size as a regular watch it doesn’t exactly weigh down your wrist.

If you like to rest your hands beneath your head however, you may find yourself getting a little bit agitated. Thankfully, I’m more of a sprawled out on my stomach type of girl.

Sleep Cycle: Ease of use
As Sleep Cycle is situated on your phone, you will have to pop your smartphone under your pillow or on your bed in order for the sleep tracker to successfully follow your sleeping habits.

Admittedly, this can be slightly frustrating as any notifications will cause your phone to light up or make a sound depending on your settings. Personally, after an hour of annoying notifications I popped my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ and got on with my sleep struggle.

Thankfully this did solve the issue. You may want to consider either disabling push notifications for apps such as email or messenger, or just pop into airplane mode.

However, I would recommend placing your phone on your mattress instead of beneath your pillow as I noticed less sensitivity to my sleeping patterns on the two occasions I had the app running while buried beneath my pillows.

Verdict: The Fitbit wins this round as the lightweight design means it’s hardly noticeable while I sleep whereas the Sleep Cycle can cause a little bit of frustration with its need to be right up in there in your personal space while you sleep.

Fitbit 1 – Sleep Cycle 0

How Easy Are the Results to Read?

Reading Fitbit

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While you can’t actually read the results of your restful/restless night on the Fitbit itself, the accompanying app does have a pretty easy to read format where you can measure the effectiveness of your sleep.

As you can see, sleep is tracked in graph format, with the white line representing your nightly goal. Personally, I set a goal of 7.5hrs, but on average I hit around 7hrs 20mins – so not too far off.

(Although I will admit, the primary reason for me missing my target is my tendency to spend way too long browsing through various social media platforms.)

You can also select individual results in order to get an in-depth breakdown of your sleep, with the app stating what time you fell asleep, what time you wake up alongside overall time spent restless and how many times you awoke from a deep slumber.

What’s particularly nifty is that you don’t have to tell the Blaze that you’re planning to sleep, it auto detects your slumber and kick starts the tracking after approximately an hour of inactivity.

Alongside this, you can also programme your Blaze to subtly wake you from your slumber through vibrations. I personally love this as the sensation is enough to wake me without any shrieking alarms and without causing too much agitation.

What is missing however is a feature that has become pretty mainstream within sleep trackers: a smart alarm.
If you’re not familiar, a smart alarm wakes you up within approximately thirty minutes of your designated wakeup time once it senses you’re naturally waking.

I’ll go into this further as I break down Sleep Cycle, but it was most definitely something that the Blaze was missing.

Reading Sleep Cycle

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Sleep Cycle also measures your slumber in graph format. In saying this however, I will say that I find the app’s breakdown much easier to read as it uses waves rather than lines. The visual representation is much clearer and you can get a good idea of the quality of your sleep at a swift glance.

Alongside this, the information provided is much easier to digest and offers just that little bit more information relating to your forty winks.

After consistent usage, it also calibrates a percentage of sleep quality in comparison with your average, and allows you to measure each night against that aforementioned average.

And of course, it has the smart alarm. While the smart alarm has become a standard feature of the sleep trackers, this does not make it any less impressive. It works by using the accelerometer within the iPhone (which is the part that senses you turning the screen) to detect movement as you sleep.

The data is then continuously stored throughout the night and used to wake you at an optimal time within your stated alarm. The phase can be set between 10-90 minutes long and the app will adjust this automatically if it senses you’re experiencing a particularly light or heavy sleep.

The result of this is that your body and brain will respond better to being awoken 5 minutes earlier than your alarm when your already inside your wake up phase, than dead on time when you’ve begun sleeping heavily once again.

As a person who gets agitated easily in the early hours, this feature is something I adore and is sorely missed on the Fitbit Blaze.

The alarm itself is gentle and certainly succeeds in waking me up gently, rather than suddenly shaking me awake as many alarms set out to do.

Verdict: Sleep Cycle wins this round due to its dedication to collecting and using data to ensure both accurate information and an effective alarm.

Fitbit 1 – Sleep Cycle 1

How Much Did They Help Me?

Fitbit

The main purpose of the Blaze is to provide a more informative view of your overall health and lifestyle.
However, it is obvious that the fitness aspect of the Blaze is prioritised as the sleep tracker simply didn’t provide enough information, and the lack of a smart alarm really does bring it down a notch.

Since the Blaze already tracks heart rate and movement, it’s difficult to understand why the smart alarm isn’t featured as it would be even more effective considering the Blaze’s acute monitoring.

Because of this, the information does feel secondary to the fitness requirements and I couldn’t help but feel that it was a little bit of an unnecessary feature especially since the fitness goals featured on the accompanying apps dashboard don’t feature a sleep icon.

Sleep Cycle

Obviously Sleep Cycle has one priority – the quality of your sleep – and that’s probably why it works so well.
The information is in depth, easy to read and accurate. It also allows you to add notes about your lifestyle, and will take these features into consideration when calibrating a sleep quality percentage.

The app also links with Apple Health and many other fitness apps so it is possible to get a more in depth look at your lifestyle as a whole.

Alongside this, as the information stored is vital to the effectiveness of the smart alarm then every piece of data does feel necessary.

Verdict: Sleep Cycle wins this round due its prioritisation of sleep tracking and depth of data provided.

Fitbit 1 – Sleep Cycle 2

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So, Is It Sleep Cycle or Fitbit?

If you’re looking for a sleep tracker that will help you get a deeper understand of your overall health and lifestyle, then the Fitbit Blaze is most definitely the winner here.

That being said, since the Blaze is looking to become a lifestyle companion then the missing smart alarm and generic data collection represents a misstep on Fitbit’s part. These features are so widespread across sleep trackers that it’s almost frustrating that the Blaze is missing them.

So in my opinion if you’re looking for a sleep tracker that detects and digests all of your slumber data then Sleep Cycle definitely comes out on top. It’s recently improved its motion detector so that you are able to place your phone on a nearby table rather than directly on to your mattress, and so while notifications may still cause some bother it is an improvement.

Alongside this, the information collected can be synced with other fitness apps such as RunKeeper if you are looking for a broader outlook.

Verdict: Sleep Cycle definitely takes the biscuit for the most effective sleep tracker this time around.

Do You Need More Than Data?

However I will say that while both Sleep Cycle and Fitbit both track your sleep, I wouldn't say they particularly improved it.

If you are struggling with your slumber, I would recommend taking a good look at your environment, including your mattress or even a new iron bed frame to replace your current rickety one.

Getting enough rest is vital to overall health, and sometimes the answer could be right under your nose.

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