Beddr SleepTuner hands-on preview

One night with this sensor on your head could change your sleep forever

Beddr Sleeptuner
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

One night wearing this unusual sensor on your forehead is the first step to understanding your sleep issues, and working towards curing them. This was the primary message we took away from speaking to Beddr’s founder and Chief Technology Officer, Tom Goff, at CES 2019, where we were introduced to the SleepTuner, discovered how it could help our lives, and what’s coming in the future.

Sleep is one of the most important aspects to our overall health, yet Goff said it’s often overlooked. For those wanting to lose weight, for example, a good, regular night’s sleep should be job number one before getting involved in diets and gym visits. Beddr’s SleepTuner tracks sleep, but it’s designed to help measure what are called stopped breathing events, where we actually stop breathing during our sleep — one of the causes of sleep apnea.

Beddr Sleeptuner
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Serious stopped breathing events can occur dozens of times an hour, and prevent our bodies from entering REM sleep, or getting to sleep at all. This can lead to increased chances of developing everything from diabetes to cancer, in addition to making the working day a massive chore.

Identifying stopped breathing events is relatively simple, but it can be time-consuming, hugely expensive, and rather invasive. A sleep trial can cost thousands of dollars, and involve visiting a clinic and sleeping whilst being observed by men wearing white coats and holding clipboards (perhaps). The Beddr SleepTuner is $150, FDA-approved, and can do essentially the same job from the comfort of your own bed. It uses a blood oxygen sensor to track the stopped breathing events, and an accelerometer to watch over your sleeping position. In the morning, you get a breakdown of your night’s sleep, the number of stopped breathing events, and plenty more.

Small, lightweight sensor

The sensor is small and lightweight. It’s barely larger than an SD card, and weighs about the same as a nickel. It’s attached to your forehead with a medical-grade sticky pad, where it stays for the night. Worried it will stop you sleeping? We wore it for some time during the interview, and it didn’t get annoying or frustrating, and we didn’t get distracted, making it a good candidate for wearing while sleeping. You notice it’s there, but it’s not uncomfortable at all. You don’t feel any sensation either, so it’s as non-invasive as possible.

Why the forehead? It’s a good spot to capture blood oxygen data, and it’s ideal for the accelerometer to understand your position. A very high percentage of stopped breathing events can be avoided by sleeping on your side, rather than on your back. The app makes recommendations for this in its results, along with reporting back on other aspects of your sleep. The app is comprehensive, clearly laid out, and best of all, informative. So often wearables collect data and don’t do much with it — the SleepTuner’s thirst for data fuels its advice.

Duration of sleep, oxygenation, heart rate, and even the percentage you slept on your side is all displayed. The more you measure, the better it understands your personal needs too. It records basic data before sleeping, such as the time, your fatigue level, and even if you’ve had a drink. All this is collated to show how the nights when you sleep on your side differ to those spent on your back, and how other factors affect your sleep. Crucially, it rates your sleep based on this and the stopped breathing events, to alert you to the seriousness of the problem and whether you should visit a doctor.

Often, understanding the depth of your sleep problem requires a lot more effort, from a doctor’s visit for a consultation, to attending an overnight sleep trial. We’re busy enough, which affects our sleep enough already, so an easy-to-use alternative is welcome. We were impressed at how simple the system is to use, and how the app guides you through the different steps. It has been well thought out, because the app doesn’t require a constant connection to your phone, so once the sensor is active, you can turn your phone off to help encourage good sleep.

The battery inside is charged usually each day, and the device has a single button to start and stop the process. There are 12 single-use sticky pads included with the kit — it doesn’t need to be used each day — and more can be purchased from Beddr’s website. There’s no other cost involved. From the metrics to the post-sleep guidance, and the overall simplicity of use, the Beddr SleepTuner is a superb solution for those with serious sleep concerns, where a basic sleep tracking wrist band would not suffice.

Future plans

Goff also gave us a glimpse of the future, where the SleepTuner will go a step further and become a conduit between you and a sleep physician who can issue prescriptions and provide medical advice. In a future version, which should arrive before the end of the year, a new sensor will be included in the pack. Cleverly, it will plug into the USB Type-C charging port on the sensor, and is a clip for your nose where it will measure breathing overnight.

Beddr Sleeptuner
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The app will prompt some people to use this additional sensor if they score particularly badly, and offer using the app to schedule an in-app consultation with a qualified doctor. This will be performed through the app itself over video. Sleep doctors will be familiar with the data and will consider it essential to their understanding, but under normal circumstances the breathing sensor won’t be needed.

Beddr is still working on the sensor itself and is confident it will add little to the end price, and intends to offer it to existing Beddr owners too, so don’t think you should wait for the updated version later in 2019 before looking into your sleep problems. Pricing for the new consultation services has not been finalized either.

We haven’t spent the night with the Beddr SleepTuner yet, but are impressed with the product and its commitment to helping people understand and move beyond their sleep problems. It doesn’t need a long-term commitment or annoying hoop-jumping to deliver on its promise either, as just one night with it on can provide insight and advice that will help wearers. Sleep matters, and when you don’t have enough good quality sleep, life suffers. The Beddr SleepTuner could help turn things around.

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