Sense Sleep Tracker

We test the simple, data-rich system for improving one's life through better sleep


A good night of sleep is an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle. While the old standby guideline of getting eight hours hasn’t changed much, research shows that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity. Ambient light, noise pollution and humidity can all play a role in the quality of one’s sleep and even the way in which we wake can set the tone for our day—and now a healthier, better night’s rest has never been more attainable. After a successful launch on Kickstarter, San Francisco-based Hello Inc’s Sense sleep tracker is available for purchase today, 24 February 2015. For the last week I’ve been putting Sense to the test, tracking my sleep and bedroom conditions. While the basic feature set—monitor quality and quantity of sleep and adjust alarms for a gentle wake-up—is similar to other sleep-trackers, the granularity and specificity of the data is unmatched. Further, the simple fact that you don’t need to wear a device to sleep lets you sleep unencumbered.


Comprised of two pieces of hardware and an app that is filled with data-driven software and complex algorithms, the Sense appears and operates with elegant simplicity. Part one of the hardware, the Sleep Pill, houses an accelerometer and when attached to your pillow, records all your movement. Bluetooth Low Energy connects the tracker to the Sense hub and affords the one inch wide gadget about a year of battery life. And fortunately, the Sleep Pill is washing machine safe should you forget to detach it on laundry day.


While the Sleep Pill collects movement data, the central Sense hub collects and analyzes atmospheric data to help measure sleeping conditions. The masterfully molded device looks like a blend of the Beijing National Stadium and Kaizen Shumai and holds a light sensor, microphone, thermometer, particle sensor and humidity detector. Measuring ambient light from phone screens, passing headlights or street lights, noise including snoring and overall air quality—not to mention whether the room is too hot or cold can lend valuable insight to what impacts your sleep when analyzed and compared to the movement data garnered from the Sleep Pill. Sound overwhelming? The sleek user experience and simplicity of the app interface takes complexity out of the equation without oversimplifying the data. Users can either delve into the micro data or monitor an aggregate Sleep Score that takes everything into account. And the more you use Sense, the better it gets to know your patterns and influences, making recommendations before bed time about how to ensure the best night’s rest.


Setting up Sense was a breeze. The app facilitates the process of connecting the hub to your WiFi network and pairing the Sleep Pill to the hub. And if you have a partner in bed, adding a second Sleep Pill is an option, too. The Sense hub is smart enough to differentiate movement data from both Sleep Pills and correlate environmental variables (Read: Sense will tell you once and for all if your partner’s snoring is compromising your sleep quality.) One of the most immediately noticeable benefits of the Sense is the alarm function. Using a mix of light and carefully selected sounds, the Sense prompts you to wake up at a moment when you’re in a light sleep that’s close to the Alarm time set. There is no snooze function because, as the device’s inventor James Proud says, “We’ve found that if your awoken at the optimal time there isn’t much need or desire to go back to sleep.”

Where many sleep improvement interventions can feel obtrusive and hard to adapt to, Sense focuses heavily on ease of adoption. Plus, the Sense with its modern yet warm design aesthetics is a palatable touch to any bedside table. Available in Cotton or Charcoal colorways, the Sense starts at just $129, add an extra Sleep Pill (to monitor your partner’s sleep) for just $59.

App images courtesy of Hello Inc, all others by Josh Rubin