SmartSleep or Dumb Device?

Katie Moore
Mar 24, 2020 · 8 min read
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SmartSleep Device by Philips

It seems like every time we blink (or wake up), another sleep tracker is born. All the major players these day — Oura, Whoop, the Dreem 2 — they all just track your sleep, which is great if you’re looking to get some basic insights on how you’re sleeping. But I finally found a device that claims to not only track, but also to improve your overall sleep quality. The SmartSleep Headband by Philips — yes the same brand that sells lightbulb — is a device with sensors that not only track your sleep, but also uses sound waves to keep you in a state of deep sleep. Sound too good to be true? I put this thing to the test for 30 days and I’m excited to share with you my full review . Plus I’ll do a side-by-side comparison with my Oura ring data below.

So I’ll be breaking down my review into three main categories:

  1. Functionality (how does this thing even work?)
  2. Feedback + Flaws (how did device work for me?)
  3. Comparison + Accuracy (what did my Oura ring say about the deep sleep boost?)

But before I dive into the details, I think it’s important to be transparent with you guys and get this out of the way first. This device is really aimed at people who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. They make that very clear in their marketing. They also say this device is NOT for people with sleep apnea or insomnia. But shift workers, new moms and dads, heck even astronauts (yes, they’re testing this device with NASA employees) are probably perfect candidates for this thing. But it’s $400 and if you really don’t have any trouble with your sleep quality, then please save your money! I get 8 hours a sleep and usually wake up feeling well rested so this device is really just an overkill for people like me.

Now if you fall into the camp of people who really struggle with your sleep hours and quality, then keep reading. Or if you really care about accuracy and you want to see if this thing might be better than the Oura ring, then stick around as I compare my SmartSleep stats to that of the Oura ring.

Cool, so let’s get started with functionality.

This SmartSleep headband is an EEG “based” wearable that uses highly sensitive sensors to detect deep sleep in real time. Note: this is not an EEG machine like the Dreem 2. In my opinion, the Dreem 2 is a bit more advanced and offers more features. Plus it’s considered an FDA Class II Medical Device in case that matters to you.

But the way the SmartSleep works is through two sensors in the headband itself and another sensor placed behind the ear and connected by a wire. These sensors track your brain waves and detect in real time what phase of sleep you’re in. When you’re in deep sleep, these same sensors trigger very specific sounds that have been studied to boost slow waves and improve the efficiency of your sleep. Now these tones are not loud — they’re probably not going to wake you or your partner up. I personally never heard them and I tend to be a lighter sleeper.

When you wake up in the morning, you sync the device with their SleepMapper app to see how you slept. The first thing you see is your “healthy sleep score” out of 100. You get a “base score” and a “sleep boost” — both of which contribute to your overall sleep quality that night. The “sleep boost” number is their calculation of how many sound waves they played to keep you in deep slumber throughout the night. I think 77 minutes was the maximum number of minutes of sounds I got one night, but this number varied pretty drastically throughout the course of my experiment.

And just like the Oura ring, when it comes to your “total” sleep score, the device dings you for things like:

  • Time asleep
  • Time you went to bed
  • Total time awake

The app also has a sleep graph section — which gives you a more detailed view of your nightly metrics. Here’s where you can see how long you were in your REM, deep and light sleep states. To be honest, it’s not the most aesthetic graph. I personally think Oura Ring does a better job, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

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Read “My Year With a Ring That Tracks Your Sleep”

So onto my feedback and flaws with the device. Let’s first talk about the positives:

  • The material is actually pretty soft and comfortable. I think it’s better than the first version of the Dreem device, which felt too stiff to wear on my head every night. And you can even tighten the SmartSleep device so it fits comfortably on small heads (like mine).
  • The Bluetooth and Wifi are OFF when you’re wearing this device so you don’t have to worry about blasting your brain with EMFs all night.
  • The company offers a generous 30-day money back guarantee with no re-stocking fee, and it’s available at Best Buy.

But as I alluded to earlier, this device just wasn’t for me. In fact, I already returned it. And here’s why:

  • The most obvious one is just the inconvenience of having to wear a machine on your head all night. It’s bulky, not sexy, and I think I ripped it off my head unconsciously at least 5 nights during this experiment.
  • The sensors are very sensitive, so much so that even on the nights I didn’t rip it off, the band sometimes moved around too much for it to get an accurate reading of my brain waves and so I woke up the next day with 0 results. That really sucked.
  • Before you go to sleep, you always have to connect the device to make sure it’s working, which is annoying in itself. But that, coupled with the fact that I also had trouble connecting the device to my app some nights, made this thing a real pain to put on when tired.
  • Sticky adhesives. These are a pain in the ass and don’t last as long as they say. For instance, the SmartSleep said the sticky adhesives would last up to 3 days. But I honestly couldn’t make it last more than 1 night. Maybe it’s because of my thick mane, but the adhesive was not sticky enough to last a second night. And these things are $30 bucks for a pack of 30, which adds to the already expensive price tag of $400 for this device.
  • You always have to charge the device every morning.
  • It often left a Star-Trek-like mark on my forehead (maybe I made it too tight?).
  • It doesn’t show your different brain waves like alpha and theta. I personally thought that would have been a good feature to include for the end user.

So now that I’ve aired my grievances, let’s move on to the final portion of this review: accuracy. I’ve included graphs as visual aids below.

Let’s start with my light sleep graph — SmartSleep v. Oura data. You can see both trackers track light sleep pretty well (graph below). You see similar trend lines for both, which suggests they’re both tracking similar data and it makes sense the nights line up correctly.

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Light Sleep Graph: SmartSleep v. Oura

Then we go to REM sleep and we can see a lot spikes in the SmartSleep where I got a lot more highs and lows (graph below). My guess is that this is because the tracking system built into the headband is a lot more sensitive than the tracking system built into the Oura ring so you could potentially get more accurate data here. You’ll get general trend lines from the Oura ring, but it may not be as precise or as big.

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REM Sleep Graph: SmartSleep v. Oura

Then we move over to deep sleep and I generally see the same pattern. I see big rises and falls together. However, I’ve got this few day chunk the week of March 8 where my Oura ring continued to be on the rise, whereas the SmartSleep data continued to decline (graph below). I honestly don’t know which one of these is truly accurate.

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Deep Sleep Graph: SmartSleep v. Oura

Throughout these 4 weeks of data, I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. I was eating consistently, didn’t change up my workout routine, and things pretty much stayed the same. So I’m not sure what would cause a massive displacement here. And usually when I do change things up, I consistently see a correlation on my Oura ring. So maybe the ring is enough to get a good idea for the bigger trends?

But if you’re looking for very specific nuances — like reading or playing games before bed — maybe this SmartSleep is what you’re looking for to evaluate those things and their impacts on sleep. Or if you’re looking for even more granularity, it might be worth looking into a sleep lab. But I’ve already learned a lot about my sleep patterns from a year’s worth of Oura data and to be honest, it’s a lot more comfortable and consistent to wear.

So even though we might get some specifically more accurate data from the SmartSleep, I think generally it’s easier to learn trends over time and get consistency out of the data from something like the Oura ring.

So here are my final thoughts on SmartSleep.

Do I think the science and intent for better sleep is there? Absolutely.

Do I think it’s a well-designed machine? Somewhat.

But do I think this is something I would consistently use over time? Hell no.

For me, a great product flows seamlessly into your everyday for me, and this thing was just lacking that sense of stickiness — just like those damn adhesives. I have a couple more sleep tracker reviews in the works, so stay tuned for those!

Katie Moore

Written by

YouTube creator, self-proclaimed biohacker, and all-around goofball.

The Startup

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Katie Moore

Written by

YouTube creator, self-proclaimed biohacker, and all-around goofball.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +776K followers.

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