There are ways to track your sleep with wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands, but none I’ve tried appears to be as sensitive as LIVE by EarlySense, a sleep monitor that goes under your mattress instead of on your wrist (LIVE pronounced as in “live long and prosper…”). The thin disk is a little less than 6 inches wide and must be plugged into its power adapter to work – more on that in a minute. There’s an app for Android or iOS, and the phone or tablet has to be on, with Bluetooth enabled, for your sleep to be monitored – more on that too shortly. The sensor is, well, quite sensitive, as it was able to pick up my heart rate one time as I sat on the edge of the bed to take off my socks – in other words, it could detect my pulse through my tush! From the time you get into bed, until the time you get up after sleeping, the sensor is sending data on your heart rate, breathing, and movement to the app. It not only knows when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake, it knows when sleep is bad or good (sorry Santa…), when your sleep is deep or light and when you are in REM sleep – Rapid Eye Movement sleep when you are actively dreaming. Or at least that’s what the app’s chart shows the next morning. Without being wired up in a sleep lab, there’s no way to confirm that the LIVE sensor got it exactly right.
However, this is not some device fresh out of a 20-year-old’s garage, but rather a consumer version of an under the mattress monitor system that EarlySense makes and sells to hospitals and nursing homes, to both track patients and alert staff to problems, such as a patient trying to get out of bed at night. That’s why, according to an EarlySense marketing manager, LIVE has to be plugged in and stay connected Bluetooth to your phone: the sensor does not store the data, to comply with HIPAA privacy rules that govern their medical products, so the sensor must transmit the data to your device in real time. They also claim the sensor is clinically proven to be more than 90% as effective as a wired sleep monitor.
You can, of course, turn your phone to silent mode so 3 am tweets from the White House don’t wake you up, and keep your phone plugged into power so you have a full charge for the next day. With Bluetooth, the phone can be 20 to 30 feet away from the bed and still pick up sleep data from the sensor. You do need a phone with a recent OS, which will have the necessary Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) version.
I initially had a problem with the app not seeing the sensor, because I did not allow the app permission for my location, which I learned turns off part of the connectivity needed for Bluetooth. (They will make that clearer in the set-up instructions.) There are also updated versions of the app and sensor in the works, so maybe in the future you’ll be able to leave the phone off at night.
There’s also a LIVE+ paid feature, about $10 monthly, that will send notifications to a family member or other caregiver, so the sensor could be placed under Granny’s mattress and her sleep, or lack thereof, monitored. Up to 5 people can be monitored with that one license.
My other issue is what does one do with the data? I don’t know what my sleep statistics mean, and as with many consumer “medical” devices, there’s no easy way to get the data to a health professional, other than to bring in your phone; the data cannot be downloaded or emailed. Then again, the app does know what time, half-asleep, I get up to pee.
LIVE by EarlySense is available directly – at the time of this writing – for $199, or $179 if you also sign up for the LIVE+ monthly notification service. If you wish to monitor both your sleep and your bed partner’s, you’ll need two sensors, but EarlySense currently offers a second sensor for $139.