Sleep trackers are no stranger to Medgadget. Over the years, we’ve looked at various gadgets that monitor your “ZZZ’s” from your wrist, on your mattress, and even within your pajamas. With a growing interest in methods of maximizing work and life productivity (particularly among millennials), an ever-increasing number of findings between sleep and health, and a steadily-growing population of people with sleep apnea, it’s no surprise that sleep quality is one of the most popular biometrics being researched.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Beddr SleepTuner, a wearable sleep tracker that launched late last year. Unlike the other sleep devices we’ve reviewed in the past, Beddr is placed on the forehead. As it’s an ideal spot on the body that is relatively flat, thin, and plentifully vascularized, Beddr is able to use a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor to consistently and accurately monitor one’s SpO2 (blood oxygenation) and heart rate. It also uses a 3-axis accelerometer to track every toss and turn and monitor the person’s sleeping position.
Beddr also has the distinction of being FDA cleared, something quite uncommon for consumer-focused biometric monitors. We asked Carla Borsoi, Beddr’s head of marketing, about the company’s motivations for FDA clearance, and she explained that it’s a means to build confidence and support from consumers, physicians, partners, and payers.
“There are a lot of questionable products in the sleep industry sold to consumers as solutions, but not backed by science, clinical research and regulatory approval,” Borsoi shared with us via email. “To stand out from this noise, Beddr has chosen to base its products on proven science.”
Consequently, the device can be used as a basis for a physician’s diagnosis and as a tool for monitoring the progression of treatment. Longer term, the company is looking to build out a broader suite of services, including a nationwide telemedicine network of sleep physicians and expert sleep coaches to provide a fully realized approach to identifying and addressing sleep issues. Let’s take a look at how the device works.
The Beddr Sleep Tuner clocks in at 33.7mm x 24.5mm x 9.5mm, a little larger than a postage stamp, and weighs only 5.3 grams, impressive for a device that contains a PPG sensor, accelerometer, Bluetooth Low Energy antenna, and a 10-hour rechargeable battery. The device is a basic gray color with a large, round power button, and a small status LED on the front. The back contains the PPG sensor, which is raised slightly so that it sits flush on the forehead when the ring-shaped adhesive is attached around it.
The device comes with a short USB-C cable and power adapter, a couple sheets containing 12 hypoallergenic adhesive stickers, a Quick Start Guide, and a protective zipper case to hold everything. We’re pleased that Beddr decided to go with USB-C for their device; this makes things much easier when traveling, as we could use the same charger on many of our other gadgets.
Attaching Beddr was simple and straightforward: simply peel off an adhesive sticker and stick firmly on the Beddr, apply to a clean forehead, and press the power button if the device is not already turned on. Once applied, we found the device to be comfortable to wear to the point that we forgot it was even on. Yes, you’ll look a little goofy with a piece of gray plastic stuck to your forehead, but we’re assuming you won’t be looking to impress anyone during your slumber. It’s important that your forehead is cleaned thoroughly before applying Beddr; any residual oil or dirt can cause the device to come off.
The adhesive was probably the biggest issue we had. There were several nights during which we either didn’t clean our forehead well enough or rolled into a prone position, knocking the device off our forehead. While it does a decent job for most, the adhesive might not work for every skin type. Perhaps the company could develop a reusable headband as an option.
Once attached to your forehead, you’ll simply open the Beddr app (iOS only as of publication time), press the Sleep Assessment button, and start counting sheep! Once you wake up, you’ll be prompted to answer a quick three question survey about your restfulness, then the app will transfer and analyze your sleep data.
Sleep apnea can have significant effects on one’s health and quality of life, and we love that Beddr takes its sleep tracking data beyond mere restfulness to help in the identification of a possible medical disorder.
By counting the number of stopped breathing events (SBE’s) throughout the night, one can see how severe sleep apnea might be. And by monitoring SpO2, Beddr can track when one’s oxygen saturation decreases due to closing of the airway during sleep apnea. But Beddr doesn’t just display an SpO2 percentage; it also shows you what posture your body was in to help you determine if changing your sleep position might be the best fix. This alone could be especially beneficial for those who dislike or cannot afford a CPAP machine.
Beddr, of course, is still a valuable tool in monitoring overall sleep quality. Taking factors such as sleep duration, breathing patterns, and restfulness, Beddr calculates and displays a nightly sleep quality score. And in addition to a nightly assessment, the Beddr app also displays daily/weekly/monthly trends that can help identify how changes in lifestyle habits or bedtime rituals affect one’s sleep quality.
We thoroughly enjoyed using the Beddr Sleep Tuner and learned a lot of interesting facts about our sleep. We think the device has a lot of potential and applaud the company’s vision to use it in medicine as a validated medical device.
We think Beddr could also have an expanded role in the home as well. In Matthew Walker’s bestselling book Why We Sleep he describes a smart bedroom that adjusts environmental settings, such as temperature and light levels, to optimize a person’s sleep quality. A biometric sensor like the Beddr Sleep Tuner could be the perfect device to monitor one’s sleep level and dynamically adjust a smart thermostat, lightbulb, or noise generator to help a person sleep better.
- FDA cleared and clinically validated
- Well-designed and easy to use
- Comprehensive and actionable data
- Device came off our foreheads on several nights
- Need to purchase additional adhesives after first 12 uses
- No integration with 3rd-party platforms or means of sending reports to physicians.
While the Beddr SleepTuner can’t replace a complete polysomnography study, it still is a great device for looking for the common causes of sleep problems without the costs and uncomfortable conditions of a traditional sleep study. It’s easy to use, and at just $149, is worth trying before consulting a sleep physician if you’re not feeling rested after sleep.
More information: Beddr Sleep Tuner website