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Withings Sleep Analyser

Withings Sleep Analyser reviewed: a potential help

Quick review

Withings Sleep Analyser
The good
Easy to use
Rather set and forget
Very cool use of science
Relatively inexpensive for what it is
The not-so-good
Has to remain plugged in
May not work with all mattress types
We're not sure if the results are altogether actionable

We don’t all have access to sleep specialists, but if you’re not sure you’re getting all the zzz’s you need, Withings Sleep Analyser gadget might just help.

It’s hard to get advice for when you think you mightn’t be sleeping well, beyond maybe someone telling you. That might be your partner waking you up in the middle of the night, their elbow jabbing you and ripping you from a dream, only to find that yes, you were sleeping, but also at one point, you stopped breathing.

That’s a genuinely frustrating and scary scenario, and one that happens to many people, as the signs of a dangerous sleep apnoea begin to kick in. An estimated 5 percent of Australian adults suffer from severe sleep apnoea, and as many as 20 percent more suffer from mild incarnations, with the results ranging from moments where snoring can occur and breathing can be halted for moments at a time. It can lead to a serious impact on a person’s health, and it’s something that technology may well be able to assist with, providing a different sort of a nudge, particularly one telling you to go see someone. Like now.

Wearables have begun to make their way to this sort of early diagnosis, with blood oxygen sensors in smartwatches being used to do just that, but they might not go far enough.

In fact in Withings’ latest gadget, the idea is to let your heart do the talking, as the French health science company innovates by allowing the impact your heart makes on your mattress to inform a deeper story about you. It’s science and technology really coming together, and in a way that happens without you really needing to do much more than check an app.

What is the Withings Sleep Analyser, does it work, and at around $200, can it help Australians struggling from poor sleep?

What is it?

Something a little bit different from the regular assortment of phones, computers, headphones, wearables, and cameras that we normally cover, the Withings Sleep Analyser is a very unassuming device because it’s flat, fuzzy, and generally stays out of sight.

The Sleep Analyser is a flat gadget that stays under your mattress just down from where your chest is, picking up on the impressions pushed out by your heart and chest. Think of it as a heart rate tracker that goes nowhere near your heart, and can be used to work out if you have sleep apnoea.

That is literally the point of this whole gadget, which is seen as a diagnostic device of sorts, and one that can tell you whether it’s worth seeing your doctor immediately, or whether you’re just slightly concerned.

It can run alongside the Withings ScanWatch and take readings in conjunction with the Sleep Analyser, or it can work independently for its own readings, sending the information to Withings’ Health Mate app.

What does it do?

Withings Sleep Analyser

Resting under your mattress — and preferring some mattress types to others — the Withings Sleep Analyser picks up on heart beats by a pneumatic sensor, using a process known as ballistocardiography to measure the impact delivered by your heart to track what’s going on.

It means that instead of tracking your heart by shining a green light on your veins and measuring your pulse, or tracking your blood oxygen, or measuring your sweat like galvanic sensors — because really, there are loads of approaches to measuring your health — the Withings Sleep Analyser can understand how you sleep by measuring what your heart is doing. Essentially, it monitors your existence based on the pressure your body delivers through the mattress, essentially using the movement your heart and body expel through layers of fabric, and tracking that, measuring it on the Apnoea-Hypopnea Index, also known as the AHI.

You’ll get a grade measuring in a colour zone, and shock horror, green is good, yellow is risky, and red is go see someone because you need help. It’s pretty direct.

There are other metrics included in a sleep analysis, such as the time you were sleeping, the parts of your sleep your were involved in nightly, your heart rate, and how often you snored, with all of it adding up to a nightly score for your sleep.

Leave it plugged in every day, leave it under your mattress so it can track you, and leave your phone nearby so it can talk to your device and send it metrics about your sleep, and you’ll get a gauge on what it understands, which is more than you might expect.

You don’t need to wear a smartwatch alongside, and can just sleep on this thing, with the Withings Sleep Analyser being amongst the most passive of gadgets we’ve ever reviewed. Very much a “set and forget” approach to health tracking, you set it up, leave it under the mattress, and sleep.

As you sleep, it will track those heart signs, bringing the results together in the morning. Depending on how you did, you’ll get a gauge on how you fit on the Apnoea-Hypoponea Index, and can even build a report to send to your doctor.

Think of it as the gadget to buy if you’re concerned you’re having problems sleeping, or if your partner is concerned and you want to know whether you should see a doctor sooner or later.

Does the Withings Sleep Analyser do the job?

Working out whether the Sleep Analyser does the job will come down to how you respond to the technology, and what your sleeping patterns are like. People who already snore are really the target audience here, but anyone who’s a little unsure about their sleeping patterns and wants to find out more may want to look into this $200 gadget, which can be found in Australia.

Able to work without any other gadget, and reliant on a recent phone or tablet using Android or iOS, it’s easy to keep in your life, even though you have to keep it plugged in. There’s no battery here, so if you unplug its USB connection from the wall, you’ll lose power. Keep it plugged in and connected to WiFi, and it will work in the background, tracking you as you fall asleep.

What it tracks can be quite interesting, though again, it’s entirely dependent on who you are.

For this reviewer, the Withings Sleep Analyser was somewhat timely. In the past few months, he’s adopted Mute plugs for his nose which open his airways, allowing more air to circulate through his nose when he sleeps. It may well be enough to make a dent on more serious sleep apnoea, and when worn, Withings’ gadget certainly picked up on a low risk on its apnoea index, the AHI.

However when those Mute plugs weren’t part of the equation, or when he inadvertently took them out amidst a dream, the risk returned, and the Withings Sleep Analyser tracked some of those moments into moderate risk. While not dangerous, the gadget was able to track not just a more substantial risk of apnoea, but also the quality of sleep he had, and in a way that read more deeply than some of the low-level metrics offered by the likes of the Apple Watch.

While the Apple Watch can tell you whether you slept, Withings’ metrics go deeper, exploring the depth, the sleeping runtime, the interruptions, your consistency and regularity in going to bed, how long it took you to go to sleep and to get up, and then other metrics such as your average heart rate throughout the night and the times you snored. It’s a metric that can form a grade and offer you tips, all coming together in a daily, weekly, and monthly look at your sleeping patterns. You can even export it to share it with a doctor.

What does it need?

What the Withings Sleep Analyser might need, despite all of these metrics, is a little more explanation on what’s going on. It’s not quite a diagnosis tool, but it does act as a prompting tool, and tells you some of the things you might want to be on the look out for.

This technically reads like a tech savvy but less medically involved version of a polysomnogram, in which Withings is studying your sleeping patterns to understand what’s going on.

But the actionable insights can be loose at best. While polysomnography can track eye movements, muscles, heart rhythms, and brain activity, the Withings Sleep Analyser focuses just on one of those: the heart. And the insights you glean from it can act as a nudge in the right direction — a nudge to see a doctor — even if it’s a $200 nudge, at that.

The red dots are nights of less-than-fantastic sleep. That might suggest we see a doctor, or it might suggest something else. Maybe we should buy a new pillow.

Is it worth your money?

And yet at around $200 in Australia, the Withings Sleep Analyser actually kind of makes sense.

Specifically, if you’re concerned about being affected by sleep apnoea or other breathing disturbances, and haven’t seen a doctor about it yet — or aren’t sure whether you should — the $200 cost of entry isn’t a bad price to pay to find out whether it’s something you should be worried about.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t see your doctor at all. If you’re concerned by anything related to your health, see a GP. Don’t wait for a gadget to tell you that. Clearly.

However at around a $150 street price (or the near $200 RRP if you don’t go looking), the Withings Sleep Analyser gives you an easy look at your sleeping health without needing to see a doctor, and may give you a little more understanding than the modicum of concern you had before, and maybe even a way to track whether your apnoea is improving over time.

The Sleep Analyser under the bed

The good news is it works with just about any phone, and will even work with most mattresses, supporting spring, latex, foam, and futons. What it won’t work with is an air mattress or a water bed, throwing those out. Waterbeds might pick up on too much movement, while air mattresses might not pick up on the movement from your heart in the same way. And while we didn’t have an old mattress with dying springs that had been used to within an inch of their life, we’re rather curious if older mattresses might struggle, too.

Long story short, the Withings Sleep Analyser might well be worth your money if you’re snoring, provided you have a mattress it will work with.

Yay or nay?

While it won’t be a gadget for everyone, the Withings Sleep Analyser can provide some peace of mind for those unsure by how they sleep. It’s a potential help for those who need it, and that’s not bad.

Withings Sleep Analyser
Withings Sleep Analyser
The good
Easy to use
Rather set and forget
Very cool use of science
Relatively inexpensive for what it is
The not-so-good
Has to remain plugged in
May not work with all mattress types
We're not sure if the results are altogether actionable
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