I have been fascinated with tracking my sleep ever since I bought my first Fitbit. As you will know, sleep is essential to feeling as well as possible with chronic illness. However, it doesn’t come easily. I personally feel it’s important to know what your sleep pattern is so that you understand where improvements need to be made.
I quickly found out, however, that using a Fitbit to track my sleep was actually counter-productive; it was uncomfortable to wear to bed and at times my hand would go numb because of it, which would then wake me up.
I therefore switched over to using a free app on my iPhone. This app seemed great at first but I soon realised that it wasn’t all that accurate. It would give me great sleep scores when the reality was I knew I had gotten up through the night or I hadn’t slept great. I also didn’t really understand what the graph meant and how it compared to someone without sleep problems.
Therefore when I was asked to try the ResMed S+— a device that accurately and non-invasively tracks sleep– I jumped at the chance. I have been using the S+ for a couple of weeks and this is an in depth review, so you might want to bookmark this page (or pin the pin at the bottom of the post) to read through at your own pace.
Before I start my review, it is important to point out that the ResMed S+ is not a medical device and it is not approved for treating medical conditions. It is a lifestyle device, designed to help you track your sleep and it offers advice relating to sleep hygiene. It will not help you to improve your medical condition, however it will provide you with useful information to present to your doctor so that you can work together on improving your sleep.
What the ResMed S+ does
The ResMed S+ is the world’s first non-contact, fully comprehensive sleep tracking system. It allows you to accurately track your sleep at home without needing to wear wrist bands, electrodes or mattress slips. Furthermore, the S+ is also capable of tracking each stage of sleep through the night; it pinpoints sleep onset and cycles of light, deep and REM sleep, which builds a picture of not only sleep quantity but the quality of sleep achieved. This for me, is what sets it apart from the other trackers I have tried.
The sleek device sits at the side of your bed, which connects to an app on your phone via bluetooth (compatible with both Apple iOS and Andriod). The S+ also utilises a cloud-hosted Sleep Mentor system, which I will discuss shortly.
I have to say the bedside device is very high-tech and I was really impressed with its accuracy. It is so sensitive that it records your breathing and you can see this on a graph when you pair the device with your phone. I lay deliberately changing my breathing pattern to test it out and was amazed that the S+ picked this up no problem!
The device also tracks your overall body movements such as positional changes, arm twitches and shrugs. In addition to movement, the device also tracks light, sound and temperature to help you create the best sleeping environment.
Each night you track your sleep by pressing a button on the app and in the morning you are presented with a sleep score and a sleep chart to show you exactly how your night’s sleep went.
Setting up the ResMed S+
The S+ is very simple to set up. You need to download the app to your phone and then sit the device by your bedside and plug it in to the mains. Ensure that your bluetooth is switched on and then you pair the device to your phone.
You then set up a profile and are asked various questions such as how many caffeinated drinks you consume, if you snore, if pets sleep in your room and what sleep issues you suffer from, among a few others.
Before use, you are given a guide on how to use the S+ and the sleep patterns are explained on the app. It is straightforward stuff and the app is well set out and easy-to-use.
ResMed S+ Features
The S+ has many great features and I am going to break each of them down to explain them fully:
1. Relax to sleep:
The relax to sleep feature is designed to help you fall asleep. Select this before you start tracking your sleep and it will play relaxing sounds that will help ease you to sleep. The really cool thing about this feature is that it syncs to your breathing and the sounds played slow as your breathing does. This really helps with the process of falling asleep.
2. Mind Clear
If you are anything like me, your best ideas will come to you when you get into bed to sleep. Either that or your brain will remind you of all of the things you have forgotten throughout the day. This can be such a pain as your whirring brain can stop you from getting to sleep.
With the ResMed S+, you can click on the ‘mind clear’ feature and either type a memo or record a voice memo so that you get everything off your mind. You can then fall asleep safe in the knowledge that your memo will be there to remind you in the morning. You can use this feature at any time during the night.
3. Smart alarm
There is nothing worse than being woken up from a deep sleep by your alarm. Instead of setting a specific time, with the smart alarm you set a half hour window in which to wake up.
So, for example, if you need to be up by 8.30am at the latest you set the window to be from 8-8.30am. The alarm will sound at some point during this time when you are in the lightest stage of sleep. This makes for a much nicer awakening.
4. Relax Daytime
This is a really neat feature. Taking time out in the day to relax is a really great thing to do if you suffer from a chronic illness; it creates calmness in the day and this not only helps to keep stress levels low but it can also help with falling asleep at night.
Additionally, planning rest into your day helps with pacing. The daytime relax feature uses the same sounds as ‘relax to sleep’. Again, it syncs to your breathing and will slow down as you take deep breaths, which helps you to focus on your breath and go into deep relaxation.
Done right, it feels like you have had a little power nap in the day!
5. S+ Sleep Mentor
After the ResMed S+ has tracked your sleep for 3 consecutive nights, it will begin to offer advice via the S+ Sleep Mentor. The S+ Sleep Mentor uses a software algorithm based on over two million nights of sleep data to deliver personalised feedback and suggestions to help users improve their sleep.
Now, it’s important to say don’t be expecting miracles here. Like I said above, the S+ does not understand chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia. The advice, while useful, is therefore general advice relating to improving sleep hygiene.
Some of this is stuff you will know already but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of some positive steps you can take to improve your evening routine. At the bottom of each page there is also a link to the S+ library where you can read about the advice given in more depth. Here’s an example of some of the advice I have been given:
I say approach the advice with common sense and remember that the S+ is not tailored towards someone with a chronic illness. If you feel it is offering helpful advice, adapt it to suit your own needs.
For example, instead of walking (something it has suggested that would exhaust me) I will be trying some gentle, restorative yoga a few hours before sleep on the days I am able to.
As a side note, I have found that I do need to get the right balance between rest and movement to aid sleep. Obviously, this is adjusted to suit my own needs and to ensure that I stay within my limitations. But I have learned that too little or too much movement has a negative effect on my sleep.
You are given an option to say whether you feel the advice is relevant or not. So you can provide feedback so that the advice the S+ provides becomes more personalised and relevant in the future.
Each night before sleep you are asked a few questions about your day: how many caffeinated drinks you have had, how many alcoholic drinks you have drank, how much exercise you have done and how stressed you were.
For exercise, I typically count things like walking around the house and going out in my mobility scooter as exercise, in addition to anything like yoga or qi-gong that I have done. This is because all of these activities are energy draining to me and things that I personally consider as exercise.
Remember that all movement equals exercise to someone with a chronic illness.
In the morning you are then presented with an overall sleep score and also a really neat graphic called sleep recharge. I actually love this part, as it makes so much sense to me.
Your sleep recharge is broken down to mind and body. So you can see exactly how much your brain has recharged (through REM sleep) and how much your body has recharged (through deep sleep). There are days when I feel exhausted but alert and other days when I feel less tired but my brain is incredibly foggy. Now I understand why.
If you tap on your sleep score you can see even more information (above right). You can see the total time you spent asleep and the overall time you spent awake and in each sleep cycle.
There is also a graph of your entire night’s sleep, which shows when you entered each of the different sleep cycles. This graph can also be enlarged so that you able to see it in more detail. I do wish the enlarged graph was clickable, with a time then shown for each segment (like what the Fitbit does). You can figure out a rough estimate against the timeline but this feature would be handy just for interest’s sake.
Your sleep score is also shown again and if you tap on it you are presented with a chart that shows you exactly how the score was calculated. The size of each segment denotes the relative importance of that sleep element.
The idea is that you want each of the segments to be full. The disruption time is a little confusing as a higher number equals less disruptions and vice versa. However, this graphic makes it easy to see which areas of your sleep are lacking. Importantly, you are also shown ideal scores (which are calculated as an average for your age group and gender) so that you know what you should be aiming for.
A feature within the app I particularly like is the sleep history. You can see your sleep score and graphs displayed alongside each other to look at trends over a period of a month at a time. You can also access more detailed sleep analysis and graphs on the S+ website, which is linked within the app.
One thing I would like to see added to the sleep charts in the app is the ability to add your own notes. I know it takes account of things like stress, exercise and caffeine but it would be useful to be able to add your own thoughts on how you felt each day etc. Perhaps this is something they could look to add in the future.
What I have learned from the ResMed S+
It’s been really interesting for me to use the S+. Generally I feel it has confirmed that my sleep is actually pretty decent for someone suffering from fibromyalgia, with my average score over the past fortnight being 85. However, it has revealed that I wake up through the night more than I thought I did and I can still improve on the time it takes me to fall asleep.
To achieve 8 hours sleep, I have learned it is important for me to give myself much more time than that in bed; I need 9-10 hours at least. In addition, I generally spend the majority of my time asleep in light sleep, with REM and/or deep sleep lacking in comparison, which is unsurprising given my fibromyalgia. This probably explains the level of fatigue I suffer from.
I really wish I had had this device a couple of years ago so that I could have tracked the progress I’ve made with my sleep. It would have been great to have had quantitative information about how my sleep has improved over the years, rather than relying solely on how I feel.
It actually makes me think about how little sleep I must have previously gotten when I was aware that I woke up multiple times through the night (and sometimes for lengthy periods). I have to say, one thing I wish the S+ would tell me is why I wake up through the night: is it due to sounds, for example? I am guessing it isn’t (and it is fibro related) but it would be useful to know.
One thing I will add though is that so far I have found this device to be pretty accurate. It records me as being awake any time I get up through the night. I also had one morning where my dog woke me up. I was in the middle of dreaming at the time and the ResMed S+ recorded me as being in REM sleep prior to being awoken.
How I will continue to use the ResMed S+
For chronic illness sufferers I believe the biggest benefit of having the ResMed S+ is that it provides you with both quantitative and quality information about your sleep. This is useful for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it can open up a meaningful discussion with your doctor. It shows them exactly what your sleep pattern looks like and where there are problems.
Secondly you can use the ResMed S+ to track whether the treatments you take are doing what they are meant to. If they don’t actually help with your sleep you have the proof to show your doctor and can discuss different options.
Hopefully in about a month’s time I will be starting Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This treatment is meant to improve sleep in fibromyalgia sufferers. Using the ResMed S+ will allow me to see exactly how this treatment affects my sleep and whether it is helping to improve it.
The graphs above are actually from the night following my trial session of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Although I have scored a ’90’ on other nights, I saw a reduction in the time I spent awake and the time it took me to fall asleep, so it looks promising!
Given how high-tech it is, the ResMed S+ is an investment but one that is worth it if you want to get an accurate picture of your sleep. At the time of writing this post, it retails at £129.95 in the UK. You can purchase it via Amazon.co.uk*. It is also available in the US from Amazon.com* and retails at $80.00 (at the time of writing).
Is tracking your sleep something that interests you? Do you think it is a useful thing to do when you have a chronic illness. Let me know down in the comments below.
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* I was kindly sent the ResMed S+ in exchange for my honest and unbiased feedback. All opinions are 100% my own.