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Philips SmartSleep Review: Using Audio to Improve Sleep Quality

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The Philips SmartSleep is much more than a simple sleep tracking device. Sleep trackers gather data to offer an inside look at overall sleep quality.

SmartSleep takes common features found in sleep tracking technology and elevates them to a new, innovative level.

I've taken a look at the SmartSleep to get a better idea of its features and overall efficiency.

Design Fails and Setup Wins

Design

I was initially unaware that Philips had a line of sleep tech but considering their status as one of the technology industry's giants, I shouldn't have been surprised. What did surprise me, however, was how unimpressive the SmartSleep's design was.

While many wearable sleep trackers are also worn on the user's head, I've always found this unpleasant. The SmartSleep is advertised as a "deep sleep enhancing wearable headband" but to call it a headband seems indescriptive. Sure, it resembles a headband, but it isn't nearly as inconspicuous as that term might suggest.

Philips doesn't state that the SmartSleep can be used only when users sleep on their back, and this isn't entirely untrue.

Unfortunately, a problem lies within one of SmartSleep's more innovative features- the integrated speakers. These speakers are positioned on each side of SmartSleep and, according to some reviewers, cause discomfort that makes side-sleeping nearly impossible. If you simply can't sleep on your back, this may prove troublesome.

I do have to give the SmartSleep's design some credit. The SmartSleep isn't a one-size-fits-all device, and Philips did make some attempt to ensure user comfort by offering two sizing options: medium and large.

This reduces the risk of the headband running too small or large. SmartSleep also uses a soft material to cover the entirety of the device.

Some sleep trackers don't use these soft fabrics, resulting in an uncomfortable experience. SmartSleep wins a point here.

Setup

On the first time setup, the SmartSleep is connected to its SleepMapper app via Bluetooth. You are then prompted to create an account (only required upon initial setup).

Once the device is synced to SleepMapper, the SmartSleep is ready for use. The sleep tracker requires no constant connection to WiFi to collect data overnight.

Various sleep trackers available display sleep data without requiring an internet connection the next day. In these cases, data is transmitted to internal device memory automatically via Bluetooth during the night.

They are then able to synchronize this data with the cloud. SmartSleep, rather, must be connected to the internet before you can view your sleep data or have any of it synced to the cloud. This is more of an inconvenience than a fatal flaw, however.

First-Time Use

Upon completed setup, you can start tracking and analyzing your sleep quality. Before we go over the entire process of using SmartSleep, I'd like to address the device's lack of integrated sensors.

Various other sleep trackers I've looked at in the past have sensors installed within the device itself, reducing any additional costs. The SmartSleep, however, requires two replaceable sensors. These sensors are placed behind the ear and connect to the headset.

Replacement smart sensors cost $30 per pack, which is inconvenient when it comes to keeping them stocked regularly.

Philips warns that the tracker's overall performance could be negatively affected when using the sensor past the recommended three-day limit. Unfortunately, it appears that the sensors are currently out of stock as of the date this article was written.

Upon applying the sensors behind your ear, you'll put the headband on and connect both SmartSleep connectors to their corresponding sensors.

The speakers will then need to be adjusted into the appropriate position over each ear. SmartSleep can then be powered on with the simple press of a button.

To confirm that the headband and sensors are correctly synced, listen for a beep. After following these steps, you'll be ready to hit the hay and let SmartSleep do the rest.

Upon waking, you will notify SmartSleep that you are no longer sleeping by detaching the connector, removing the sensors, and plugging the headband into the charger.

What Can You Expect From Philips SmartSleep?

Before diving into the features, you can expect from the SmartSleep, a disclaimer.

Philips describes their sleep tracker as a solution for those between 18 and 50 years of age who sleep no more than 7 hours per night on average. This demographic is more likely to suffer from persistent sleeping issues as their lifestyle leaves no room for longer sleeping sessions.

Who is SmartSleep For?

As a disclaimer, Philips lists in detail who the SmartSleep is for and who it isn't.

If you experience issues with falling asleep and staying asleep, the SmartSleep won't offer you much of a solution. Philips also states that SmartSleep is not intended to induce deep sleep- only to improve its quality.

The SmartSleep makes a little positive impact on the transition from one sleep stage to another (REM, light, or non-deep sleep). The focus is to instead promote longer deep sleep periods. Finally, the SmartSleep vastly differs from other sleep trackers in that its use is not intended to benefit those with present sleeping conditions.

How You Can Benefit From SmartSleep

Improving the Quality of Deep Sleep

Improving the quality of deep sleep has a variety of benefits. These include a boost in alertness and reduced daily fatigue.

While many sleep trackers suggest changes you can make in your daily routine to have a better night's sleep, SmartSleep's primary function is to pinpoint possible problem factors without demanding any change in sleep schedule.

Slow-Wave Sleep

So what does SmartSleep do to improve the quality of sleep? SmartSleep focuses on detecting when the user has entered the third stage of non-REM sleep- deep sleep. That's where the reusable smart sensors come into play.

Slow-wave sleep occurs within the deep sleep period. It is considered to be the most restorative period of sleep and can be identified through common signs.

These signs include a reduced heart rate, slower breathing, and relaxed muscle tension. Upon detecting that the user has entered the deep sleep period, the smart sensors look for the aforementioned signs of slow-wave sleep. Then, the SmartSleep works its magic.

SmartSleep Audio Tones

Once slow-wave sleep is detected, SmartSleep uses an algorithm to trigger quiet audio tones via the integrated headphones. Slow waves can be enhanced through audio, effectively improving deep sleep quality.

These audio tones are comparable to binaural beats, rhythmic tones occurring at a variety of frequencies that are found to enhance the quality of sleep. These tones are reported to be quiet enough to leave the user undisturbed while effectively enhancing naturally occurring slow waves. These enhancements promote a more extended period of a deep sleep, reducing fatigue the next day.

Audio Tones Customized For You

I was impressed with SmartSleep's ability to use collected data to best suit the needs of each user. SmartSleep uses recorded data to control the audio tones in both volume, tone, and timing. SmartSleep continuously monitors your unique sleeping patterns and formulates the audio levels needed to produce positive results.

Calculating "Total Sleep Score"

When viewing your SmartSleep results through the SleepMapper mobile app, you'll notice that you are assigned a "total sleep score". SmartSleep tracks nightly metrics, which include:

  • What time you went to bed
  • How long you slept
  • How many times you awakened during the night
  • When you entered deep sleep
  • Time spent in deep sleep
  • How many times the audio tones were delivered

These are just some of the metrics calculated to assign a total sleep score. This score is delivered through the app and can provide insight into the factors that positively or negatively affect sleep quality. Viewing your total sleep score is easy, and you can look at a basic overview if you don't have time to look at the more detailed metrics.



Accuracy

As with any sleep tracker, the accuracy of the SmartSleep is important to question. Philips indicates that SmartSleep was developed alongside experienced doctors and researchers. They also claim that 70% of the users participating in their 2-week clinical study reported positive effects after regular use.

It appears that SmartSleep has a fair amount of clinical evidence supporting its accuracy.

According to Philips' website, the SmartSleep is supported by a number of reputable organizations including WebMD and the American Sleep Association. Philips hopes to consistently update their line of sleep tech devices with the informational resources that these organizations provide.

I was unable to find many user-verified reviews concerning SmartSleep's accuracy across the web, but there are a number of reviews on the product's official website. Upon browsing through each review, I noticed that the majority of users reported SmartSleep's findings to be accurate.

It should be noted that many of these users simply assumed that they received accurate data due to an observable difference in their energy levels. While there is something to be said for this, not every review was positive- some users felt no notable difference at all.

Where to Find the Philips SmartSleep

As of the writing of this review, the SmartSleep is only available for purchase through the official website at a retail price of $399.99. You should also keep in mind that you will have to consistently buy smart sensors in order to use the product, and these cost $30 per pack.

These prices are hefty as compared to other sleep trackers on the market. If you've done your research and are convinced that SmartSleep is the right fit for you, however, you may be willing to take the dive.

A Compelling Alternative - Philips SmartSleep vs Dreem

If you want to weigh all of your options before electing to purchase the SmartSleep, consider Dreem.

Dreem's design is similar to SmartSleep but is more user-friendly. Compared to the bulkier design of the SmartSleep, Dreem is unobtrusive. The bands that wrap around the head are much thinner, making it more comfortable for side sleepers. This offers a solution to one of the biggest issues I found in SmartSleep's design.

As an added plus, Dreem comes with an adjustable band with three sizing options as compared to SmartSleep's two.

Considering Dreem's unassuming size, you may expect it to lack the features present in the SmartSleep. While it may be hard to believe, Dreem offers the same features and then some for the same price- $399.99.

Dreem comes equipped with seven sensors- 6 EEG sensors that monitor brain activity and one dedicated pulse oximeter that measures heart rate. Best of all? Dreem includes reusable sensors. No continuous purchases for use, unlike SmartSleep.

And yes, the Dreem has its own audio features to help promote longer time spent in a deep sleep. The difference? No uncomfortable headphones! The Dreem headband uses a bone conduction piece in the front band instead, transmitting sound from your forehead to your ear effectively.

Dreem records all of the same metrics as SmartSleep and delivers reports via its own mobile app. Equipped with a variety of in-app programs that act as sleep training exercises, Dreem addresses the factors contributing to poor sleep quality. These programs are absent in SleepMapper and may be useful if you're looking for a proactive sleep solution.

Dreem also includes a smart alarm that will actually wake you each morning when you are sleeping at your lightest. This feature is highly customizable and chosen by you. With a little trial and error, this innovative feature can be a great step towards easier mornings.

The Final Verdict on the Philips SmartSleep

PROS
  • Innovative audio tone features
  • User-friendly app
  • Detailed sleep metrics
  • Customizable audio tones
  • Clinically tested and approved
CONS
  • Bulky headband
  • Integrated speakers make slide/stomach sleeping uncomfortable
  • Require continuous purchase of smart sensors for use
  • No smart alarm
SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband
$$$