Fitbit’s New Sleep Tracking – A Month Testing The Alta HR

In 2017, Fitbit made some main modifications to its sleep monitoring. The Cost 2 HR, Blaze, Alta HR and Ionic now present sleep stage monitoring, better sleep insights and different useful extras like sleep schedule reminders.

Like all house sleep trackers, nevertheless, Fitbit units have historically struggled with accuracy issues, each with exercise and sleep monitoring.

However whereas some, just like the Jawbone and Sense for example, seem to have fallen by the wayside beneath the strain of constant criticism, Fitbit seem keener than ever to improve each the accuracy and helpfulness of their units and App.

So to seek out out extra concerning the new sleep tracking, I made a decision to put on an Alta HR for a month to see just how accurate and useful the sleep knowledge on the App, reminders and insights proved to be.

my fitbit alta

What I used to be in search of

I repeatedly check new exercise and sleep trackers, however I additionally wish to have one for real personal use, moderately than just being a part of my ongoing exams.

And for me personally, there are some things that make it more probably I’ll persist with one, quite than depart it in a drawer after I’ve finished reviewing it:

  • It seems to be good – this matters in case you put on it continually and should take it to bed with you!
  • It feels snug to put on through the day and in bed.
  • It seems correct on measurements I can check myself, resembling heart fee and steps. And to a certain extent, the time I in all probability fell asleep, occasions I awakened through the night time and within the morning.
  • The App is straightforward to make use of, understand and interpret.
  • The App supplies useful, actionable ideas to assist me sleep better.
  • If there are useful reminders to take motion, corresponding to do some exercise or prepare for mattress.

A few of these points apply to the precise gadget, in fact. And others apply to all the new Fitbit units, such as the sleep knowledge on the App.

Since that is meant to be a take a look at the new sleep monitoring, somewhat than a detailed assessment of the Alta HR itself, I’ll cover it solely briefly earlier than wanting on the Fitbit sleep monitoring that’s the same for other units.

Why I chose the Alta HR for the month

Having worn many various trackers on my wrist at night time, I do know that I want them to be as small, snug and unobtrusive as attainable.

The Alta HR ticks all of those bins. With an identical look to the Charge 2, it’s significantly thinner. And it’s not far off the previous champion of lightweight wearables – the Jawbone UP3.

And just like the Charge 2, it also appears great on the wrist. Many units look a bit ugly, are too cumbersome or worse nonetheless, both. And that doesn’t encourage long-term use. However I assumed I’d be comfortable preserving the slim and modern Alta HR on for a month, and I was right.

One other key level is that it has a incredible battery life – one week with a single cost. And meaning much less danger of not using it because you’ll be able to’t discover the charging cable otherwise you overlook to place it back on once more!

alta v jawboneThe Alta HR compared to the light-weight Jawbone Up three

First checks – primary accuracy

The sleep stage breakdown is essentially potential due to the power to combine knowledge from both the movement and constant heart fee sensors. So to belief the sleep knowledge, it will be helpful if the movement and coronary heart fee appear correct in the course of the daytime too.

Where heart price is worried, the resting coronary heart fee seems very correct. I examined it towards my pulse and stopwatch many occasions through the month, and it was just about all the time spot on.

When it came to heavy train, nevertheless, it was an entire different story. The Alta really struggles to keep up once I’m at the fitness center – probably because of the fixed wrist bending when lifting weights and rowing, which Fitbit themselves admit may cause issues.

However in the course of the night time, that shouldn’t be a problem. So I’m fairly glad that once I’m not shifting, the guts fee reading could be trusted (as long as I don’t lie in a clumsy place!).

As for much less vigorous motion, once more it seems fairly good. It counts my steps properly in the course of the day, and reacts mechanically to train corresponding to strolling or biking. And importantly, once I rise up in the night time to make use of the toilet or get a drink, it hasn’t missed it as soon as (more on that later).

An essential point right here is that that is the type of preliminary testing the typical individual may do with a brand new system. And if a device passes these checks, it’s more probably the owner will belief the more complicated knowledge like sleep levels.

Setting a sleep schedule and reminders to stick to it

One of the issues I really appreciated in the course of the month is the choice to set a sleep objective / schedule and then get reminders to stay to it.

Within the App settings, you’ll be able to input your goal sleep schedule. Since I’m a little bit of an evening owl, I went with bedtime at 12:30 a.m. and get up at 8:30 a.m.

You’ll be able to limit the days in your schedule in case you like, however I do know I personally benefit from a daily 7 day every week pattern.

Following that, you’ll be able to ask for a reminder that will help you wind down for sleep, which I set an hour before at 11:30 p.m.

Every night time I then acquired both a notification on my telephone and a vibrating reminder on my wrist to encourage me to stick to that bedtime. And in principle, start winding down by placing aside any late night time work, and reading a ebook or enjoyable moderately than watching the subsequent episode of my favourite TV collection.

I found this a really useful device, and one which I can see truly benefiting individuals. And to assist encourage you even more, in the event you manage to hit your target you’ll get a inexperienced star on the App the subsequent morning.

So let’s take a look at the App knowledge and how helpful it could be.

App web page 1 – the dashboard

fitbit app page 1 screenshot

The above screenshot exhibits the summary on the dashboard on the Fitbit telephone App. It’s Monday morning and I’m working from residence, so there’s not a lot activity logged as yet (wait till my fitness center session this afternoon!)

The necessary part, for now although, is the sleep section. It exhibits 8 hours 12 minutes complete sleep time and 69 minutes awake through the night time. I did have a little bit of a restless night time, in order that is sensible.

To seek out out extra about my sleep, you then click on on the sleep section to get extra element.

App web page 2 – a better take a look at my complete sleep

screenshot of my fitbit app sleep data for the last week

The second page of the App exhibits you two major things: a visible representation of how much complete sleep you had in the final week on prime.

And under there’s a scrollable listing of all of your earlier night time’s sleep – mine goes back over a yr, even registering my Cost 2 and Blaze knowledge.

What’s immediately clear is that I obtained a green star final night time for hitting my private complete asleep aim of 7 hr 30 min. Nice!

I can even see that it’s only the second time I’ve hit it prior to now week, falling behind on the other 5 days. Not so nice, so perhaps I want to think about why that is and pay more attention to my sleep schedule.

App web page 2 continued…

screenshot showing the fitbit app previous week

Once I scroll additional down the primary sleep page on the App, I can see some issues with the past week. For one, I’m recurrently going to sleep later than my goal time of 12:30 a.m.

Secondly, I’m actually not doing very properly at waking up at the similar time and getting away from bed! My get up time has a 2 hour range, and one thing I actually need to enhance.

The good news is that I did truly acquired to mattress a lot earlier than the occasions recorded, however was simply in mattress studying. The incontrovertible fact that it hasn’t recorded that as sleep is very important, and a aid to see.

Capturing a nasty night time’s sleep

An fascinating point in this final week although is what occurred on Friday. I was sick that night time and slept badly. I took the morning off, and tried to get some more sleep to get well. And the Fitbit was very accurate in recording these 2 separate phases of sleep.

It doesn’t report levels if the sleep is lower than 3 hours, so the 1 hr 37 min sleep is just a complete time. However, I used to be impressed that it picked up the entire time for each phases.

I do assume the first part is a bit inaccurate, nevertheless, as I felt like I slept much less and was awake in bed resting. A basic sleep tracker drawback which unfortunately still crops up every so often. However it nonetheless highlights nicely the overall concept that it was a nasty night time’s sleep.

General, I like the best way you possibly can see the entire sleep time for every day, a mean for each week and stars for if you hit your sleep objective. It appears good visually, is straightforward to read and understand. And the patterns make you consider how nicely you’re meeting your aim or not.

App page 3 – the sleep levels

fitbit app sleep stages

If you click on any of the times within the previous web page, you’ll find the sleep levels for that night time. This is the place you start to see your sleep in more detail, and in addition probably get somewhat confused. So it’s fascinating to see how Fitbit decided to current the info.

To begin with you’ll be able to see your levels all collectively, introduced in a reasonably chart. Although there are technically extra levels, Fitbit chooses to group them into awake, REM, mild and deep.

Until you’ve gotten a great understanding of the science behind sleep levels, the chart is type of meaningless although. So it’s good to see the whole for every stage damaged down into occasions and percentages under.

However what does 49% of the time spent in Mild sleep mean although? Is 1 hr 50 min of deep sleep the correct quantity or do I have a sleep disorder? These are the type of questions I needed to see answers to, as I think about most people would.

And to get some answers, it appears you must look in three totally different locations.

Details about every stage

deep sleep stage screenshot

Once you click on on the primary sleep stage graph, you possibly can entry four more pages – one for each of the levels. That means you possibly can visually see whenever you have been in that stage through the night time, in addition to the exact occasions (in case you click on the bars). And underneath are a few key notes about that stage.

Within the above screenshot, I’m advised I used to be in deep sleep for 19% of the night time. I did get up feeling refreshed, so going by the important thing notes, logically I can assume 19% may be a strong time.

However that’s assuming the full time was sufficient that 19% of that complete time could be thought-about strong. Extra on that time later.

The notes are temporary, but all helpful. I like that you simply’re advised it’s typical to wake 10-30 occasions per night time. That’s a useful bit of data which may cease you feeling anxious about your sleep knowledge.

And it’s good you’re informed REM sleep sometimes occurs later in the night time. Again, which may cease you worrying whenever you understand it’s missing from the first part of the night time.

Benchmark towards your gender and age

fitbit app benchmark data screenshot

The screenshot above exhibits perhaps my favourite part of the brand new Fitbit sleep monitoring knowledge: the benchmark towards individuals your age and gender, and in addition towards your personal 30 day average.

Assuming it’s correct, to me this can be a implausible method to assist individuals really feel much less anxious about their sleep. And of course, it’s truly telling you one thing helpful concerning the sleep levels, slightly than just leaving you to work out what all these graphs imply.

For final night time’s sleep, the App tells me that my sleep is surprisingly common for males my age. I’m virtually exactly in the center for awake, REM and lightweight. And I even obtained greater than common deep sleep, which is the stage that leaves you feeling refreshed.

So going by these outcomes, I’d assume I have nothing to complain about. But earlier than I start modifying my standing as an insomniac, there’s a small caveat.

These are benchmarks relating to proportion time in every stage. They don’t consider whether or not you truly slept for long enough for these percentages to be enough in complete.

On the finish of the day, the way you truly really feel in the morning will still inform you extra about whether or not you got sufficient sleep than graphs, percentages and benchmarks on an App.

That’s not to take away from the potential usefulness of the comparison though. Should you recurrently get much kind of of a sleep stage than the typical individual, it may be a good idea to mention it to your doctor to see in the event that they assume it needs to be seemed into.

Extra details about sleep levels

I discussed that there have been 3 sources of solutions concerning the which means of your sleep levels. We’ve seen the person breakdowns and key notes, and in addition the benchmarks.

The third is the Fitbit sleep tracking web page on their web site, which you’re taken to should you click ‘learn more’, which appears subsequent to the sleep levels. There you’ll find further clarification of the sleep levels, although it nonetheless doesn’t clarify points like how much time in deep sleep could possibly be thought-about ‘solid’.

I feel that’s partly as a result of we’re all totally different, and our sleep will range from one night time to the subsequent naturally. So again, the significance of figuring out how a lot sleep it is advisable to be at your greatest can’t be understated.

Once you understand how a lot complete sleep it is advisable to feel good, you possibly can enter that as your sleep aim. Then hopefully the sleep levels will fall into the typical range in the long-term, helping you feel good about your sleep sample and motivated to stick to an excellent sleep schedule.

Sleep insights / teaching

Either my sleep is best than I assumed, or I just haven’t worn the Alta for long sufficient but, as a result of I haven’t acquired any useful sleep insights to date. I know they’ll ultimately come because the system gets to know me better, so hopefully by the subsequent article I’ll have some to discuss.

What I did receive although is a few emails reminding me of all the totally different sleep features I can and ought to be making use of. I like that Fitbit comply with you up this manner, gently motivating you to do essential things like set sleep objectives and reminders.

How accurate was the Alta HR general?

General sleep and wakings

I stored an in depth eye on the things I might objectively report over the month. On most days, I used to be proud of the falling asleep time and waking time. Nevertheless, there were 3 days once I felt it was off by greater than 5-10 minutes and so changed the info manually.

On the day I was sick, I deleted 40 minutes sleep once I was undoubtedly awake within the night time and never shifting a lot. And on two different days I deleted 20 in the morning once I awoke and stayed in mattress, unable to fall asleep again.

Impressively, there were no mistakes once I acquired up to make use of the toilet or get a drink from the kitchen.

So I feel there have been three days in the month the place the accuracy was off by sufficient for me to really feel the necessity to modify it manually. Personally, I’m quite proud of that because it’s not as dangerous as many other sleep trackers, and it’s correct enough for me to feel like it’s useful.

Sleep levels

photo of my phone with the fitbit sleep app on the screen

The drawback with judging the accuracy of the sleep levels is that, nicely, you possibly can’t your self. Not until you put on the system in a sleep middle and examine it to a polysomnogram.

To a certain extent you should use the benchmark together with your past 30 days and other individuals, combined with how you are feeling, to get a really tough concept of the accuracy. However actually, you’re left to trust the claims of the producer where accuracy is worried.

Fitbit have by no means claimed to be 100% accurate, utilizing words like ‘estimate’ rigorously. But in April 2017, some fascinating analysis was revealed within the journal sleep, during which wearables have been in truth in contrast with correct sleep lab exams.

And the researchers apparently demonstrated that wearable units which monitor each movement and coronary heart price are more accurate than previously, concluding:

These results recommend that a wrist worn system with motion and cardiac sensors can be used to find out sleep levels with an inexpensive diploma of accuracy in regular adult sleepers, however with out the price and artificial sleep surroundings of a sleep laboratory. The reported performance figures are comparable or better than previously reported results from non-EEG based mostly sleep staging utilizing mixtures of cardiac, respiratory and movement info.

This analysis was supported by Fitbit – read into that what you could. However it does recommend residence sleep trackers is perhaps getting into a new era the place reliability is worried.


Personally, I like Fitbit’s new and improved sleep monitoring. Although it’s unimaginable to say just how accurate it really is your self, it does appear extra accurate than it was at the least.

A yr in the past, my Blaze and Charge 2 typically added up to an additional hour to my sleep if I used to be awake and motionless. And though there have been a couple of errors through the previous month, there was nothing that wildly inaccurate.

I’ve discovered the sleep aim setting very useful, even when I’m struggling to satisfy it. Nevertheless it’s continually on my thoughts now, so I’ll be making an attempt to get extra of those green stars!

I like the thought of the sleep stage benchmarks. Once more, I can’t make sure if it’s utterly accurate, however I might be positive it makes me really feel higher about my sleep. I virtually all the time fall underneath the ‘normal range’ for males my age, and regardless that I take it with a pinch of salt, it’s nonetheless type of a aid to know.

As for the Alta HR, this wasn’t meant to be a evaluation of the gadget itself. However I should end by saying it’s grown on me over the weeks. It’s just like the smaller sibling of the Cost 2, and though I first missed the mindfulness App and the extra accurate exercise monitoring, I actually like the thin design and great battery life.

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For extra details about the accuracy and reliability of sleep trackers generally, you may wish to read about the best way sleep trackers work.

Your ideas

Should you use a Fitbit, how have you discovered the new sleep tracking thus far? Which options do you find kind of helpful? And does it seem correct to you? Be happy to go away a comment under together with your thoughts.