When it comes to improving sleep, the first thing experts usually tell you is to minimize tech in the bedroom. Blue light, the anxiety of Insta notifications, the buzzing and dinging… none of these things are good for deep, restful, energy-generating slumber. Since I’ve resolved to improve my sleep this year, I’m on the hunt for the tech that can help, not hurt, my plight for better slumber.
Still, the tech world has introduced many a sleep tracker exist to diagnose your sleep issues (ugh, so many), and this new one is unique in one major way: you don’t wear it.
The SleepScore Max looks like a design-forward speaker and it sits (pretty discreetly and attractively) on your nightstand. Then, while you focus on deep breathing and counting sheep to try to counteract the caffeine buzz that hasn’t worn off since that 4:00 p.m. matcha (just me?), it uses radio wave technology to monitor how you’re sleeping (i.e. your breathing, tossing, and turning) and the myriad other things that could be affecting that process (like light and temperature).
The big question remains: Can the device actually help you improve your sleep and lead to more productive, happy daytime hours?
How it works
The SleepScore Max uses “SleepScore by ResMed technology,” which involves emitting a short pulse of radio waves that then uses a system similar echolocation to measure your breathing. (The company touts its scientific cred a lot: According to SleepScore Labs, the technology “has been validated in over 10 clinical studies comparing it against lab-based Polysomnography (PSG), the gold standard of sleep measurement.”
After monitoring your sleep, it delivers results in the form of nightly graphs that show the sleep cycles you went through during the night and a “SleepScore” that puts a number on how dreamy you night was (AKA the quality and quantity of your sleep).
The score, which is on a scale of 1 to 100, incorporates six parameters: total sleep duration, time to fall asleep, light sleep, deep sleep, REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) sleep, and awakenings throughout the night. These variables are then measured against known sleep averages for your age and gender, which have been established by well-published research, expert advisors and the analysis of over two million nights of sleep. Continued use of SleepScore Max in conjunction with adherence to advice on sleep environment, health, lifestyle and should help your improve your score.
Once data on your sleep patterns starts to build up, the app gives you recommendations on how to improve your sleep. Maybe you sleep better on nights when the room was cooler, for instance, or maybe it’s taking you too long to fall asleep, because, again… caffiene.
What it’s like
To get a feel for the SleepScore Max, I used one to monitor my own sleep for a week.
First of all, it was super easy to set up. You just plug it in next to your bed, download the app, and then sync the app to the device via bluetooth. It was ready to go in minutes.
Then, you let the app get to you know a bit. Initially, you fill out a detailed questionnaire about everything from your workout habits to your bedroom setup. (i.e. Does your dog manage to take up way too much room in your bed, or snore to wake you? Yes, and yes!) Each night before you go to bed, the app asks you a few simpler questions about your day, like how stressful it was and how many alcoholic drinks you had. All of this gives it lots of background data to work with.
When you’re ready to shut your eyes, you hit a button to “start sleep tracking.” When you wake up, you grab your phone and hit a button to tell it you’re up. Almost right away, it delivers your score and a graph showing what was happening through the night.
I learned quickly that I’m generally not getting enough deep sleep and that I’m waking up too many times throughout the night. (Did I mention the dog?) Interestingly, my scores were a lot higher than I thought they would be. While it was during a week when I was having more trouble sleeping than usual, apparently I was still out-sleeping most others.
In terms of improving your sleep, the longer you SleepScore, the more suggestions it gives you. After a week, I was mostly getting “insights” in the Sleep Guide part of the app—like info on how to understand the sleep stages—rather than solid recommendations. But if you use it for longer, the company says it will recommend products (like pillows or other apps that help you sleep) and concrete lifestyle adjustments.
The best part, I’d say, is you really don’t even notice it’s there. There’s no hardware on your wrist or flashing light to defeat the purpose, so if you’re someone who’s super into the pursuit of quantified self, it’s probably one of the best options out there when it comes to maximizing quality ZZZs.
Have you used any sleep trackers? Did they help? Share your experiences in the comments below!