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Withings Aura review: Track your sleep, and possibly your cat's too

Kirk McElhearn | March 10, 2015
Between never-ending Netflix binges and Kindles full of page-turners, we have plenty of distractions to keep us up at night. But you'll surely regret that decision the next morning if you have a full day of work ahead of you. No matter the cause for your late-night habits, a lack of sleep can be a serious problem for many people--it can make you more likely to have car accidents, make you forgetful, lead to weight gain, and precipitate other health problems. Yet a recent study says that too much sleep can double your risk of stroke. So what's a person to do?

Between never-ending Netflix binges and Kindles full of page-turners, we have plenty of distractions to keep us up at night. But you'll surely regret that decision the next morning if you have a full day of work ahead of you. No matter the cause for your late-night habits, a lack of sleep can be a serious problem for many people — it can make you more likely to have car accidents, make you forgetful, lead to weight gain, and precipitate other health problems. Yet a recent study says that too much sleep can double your risk of stroke. So what's a person to do?

Withings' $300 Aura is a device that monitors your sleep, helping you determine if you sleep too little or too much. The Aura also offers sleep programs, with colored lights and sounds to help you fall asleep, and to help you wake up when you are in a light sleep phase. Withings claims that the reddish light the device emits before you go to sleep encourages your body to create melatonin, which helps you fall asleep. Conversely, the bluish light it emits while waking you inhibits melatonin, increasing your alertness. 

The Aura comes in two parts. The sleep sensor is a flat, cloth-covered device that you place under your mattress. This connects to the bedside device, which is about 11 inches tall, and looks like a ship's ventilation funnel. The bedside device has a speaker, a digital clock, and USB ports at the back; you can plug your iPhone into one to charge it). Its round "face" emits LED light in a variety of colors that sync with the Aura's sleep programs. You swipe its side, or tap it on the top, to start or end programs, or to turn its light on or off. (It has a reddish light — different from the red light used as a sleep enhancer — that you could use as a reading lamp.)

Rest test

I've been using the Withings Aura for about two months. I typically don't have any trouble sleeping, so I didn't find the sleep programs very useful — I only ended up using them a few times. The wake-up sound is jarring and sudden rather than starting at a low volume and increasing as you become awake, and the white noise, which is supposed to help you go to sleep, is just a distraction. But I live in a rural area, and don't have traffic outside my window. If you live in a city, these sleep programs might be what you need.

The device connects via Wi-Fi, sending data to your Withings account, which you can access on the web, or via an iOS app (an Android app is in the works). You can view this data for any individual day to see how you sleep. It records the amount of time you sleep, periods when you are awake, and when you are in the three different levels of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. However, it sometimes conflates two days of sleep.

 

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