I'm never wearing a smartwatch to sleep again

The Ultrahuman Ring Air and Garmin Forerunner 965 sitting on a pillow.
(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)
Sunday Runday

Lloyd, the Android Central mascot, break-dancing

(Image credit: Android Central)

In this weekly column, Android Central Wearables Editor Michael Hicks talks about the world of wearables, apps, and fitness tech related to running and health, in his quest to get faster and more fit.

A smart ring can't replace a smartwatch. It can't fit all the sensors, haptics, and other components needed for apps, notifications, and calling. Aside from that, I'm skeptical that a smart ring can match a watch for step count or workout data. But sleep tracking? I can't see anyone continuing to wear a smartwatch after trying their first smart ring. 

I've been testing the Ultrahuman Ring Air for a little over a week, and I quite like its sleep-tracking features thus far. However, my new belief isn't about one brand in particular; it could easily apply to the Oura Ring Gen 3 that a couple of my colleagues love or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Ring. What matters is the form factor. 

My Ultrahuman Ring Air weighs about 3g/0.1oz, while Oura's ring measures between 4g and 6g, depending on your ring size. The upcoming Galaxy Ring apparently weighs between 2.3 and 2.9g, taking the lightweight crown. 

With wrist-based wearables, even something pebble-sized like the Fitbit Charge 6 weighs 30g/1oz — mainly because of the strap. Switch to a proper smartwatch, and it'll weigh two or three times that, especially when you add stainless steel or titanium material. 

Blood oxygen monitoring on the Galaxy Watch 6

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

During the day, I can ignore the weight and feel of a smartwatch on my skin. But as night approaches, its presence feels more oppressive, as if I'm going to bed wearing my day clothes. 

I know I'm in the minority — Android Central did a poll in 2022 showing that 67% of readers "usually" wear a smartwatch to bed, compared to 21% who "never" do — but for me, the worst part of every smartwatch review is that I need to test their sleep tracking capabilities to judge their value for most people.

Because of that, I miss out on all the great features and health data that fitness watches offer. My daily watch is the Garmin Forerunner 965, but I don't see proper Body Battery data (my sleep energy recharge) or HRV status (stress and workout recovery levels) because I don't wear it to bed.

It's not just about comfort, either. For the best results, your smartwatch band needs to be perfectly fitted. If it's too tight, it disrupts blood flow and messes with the actual results for heart rate and blood oxygen. If it's too loose, you get erratic readings because not every pulse is picked up. Even if worn correctly at first, all it takes is your pillow or body weight shifting your smartwatch in the wrong direction, and suddenly, your data will be off for hours at a time.

Case in point, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 proved accurate enough for heart rate data during the day but gave me some very misleading data for blood oxygen and skin temperature during my review. 

The Ultrahuman Ring Air on the author's index finger

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

With my Ultrahuman Ring Air, it truly feels like it blends into my skin. My usual issues with tactile hypersensitivity—or whatever the official psychological term is—don't apply anymore.

Now, when I wake up, I can see my sleep duration, time in each sleep zone, average and resting heart rate, skin temperature, heart rate variability, heart rate drop time, blood oxygen average, restlessness, and most of the other core data I need. The exception is atrial fibrillation (AFib) detection, which I don't think any smart ring brand offers yet. 

Of course, you can still get inaccurate readings if you choose a smart ring that's too tight or loose. But since you can buy them in most ring sizes, that's rarely an issue. 

Once you've got a smart ring that's properly fitted, even if it presses hard against your pillow or mattress while you sleep, it still adheres to your skin along most of your finger — much better than a smartwatch would. The exception is during workouts, when your fingers naturally swell from the increased blood flow, which seems to mess with your heart rate results.  

Now that I'm wearing a smart ring, I find it much harder to justify going to bed late or having a can of High Noon, knowing that little chunk of metal will warn me about my poor sleep recharge or decreased HRV the next day. I hope it'll help me establish better habits over the long run.


Oura Ring (Gen 3) on a smartphone

(Image credit: Derrek Lee / Android Central)

If you're already happy with your smartwatch, then you can save yourself the $300 cost of a typical smart ring and enjoy the sleep-tracking features. I'm happy for you!

For those in the minority, like myself, who just can't stand the weight, the sweat and grime build-up, the swelling of their wrists, and the overall awareness of something pressing hard into their skin all night, a smart ring is your solution. You'll get the health and energy data you've been missing without any discomfort. 

The downside to smart rings is what I said at the beginning: They're not meant to replace your Android watch or Apple Watch for app smarts, nor your fitness watch for metrics and GPS. But if you're the kind of techie who can afford to add smart rings to your category of devices, then I highly recommend it. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.


For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.

  • rvbfan
    No thanks, I have enough gadgets.
    Reply
  • SyCoREAPER
    This reads more like a hidden product endorse than an actual review. You keep mentioning that ring by name.

    The entire article you repeat yourself and never give an actual reason why the ring is better. You say it's not comfort and a bunch of other things it's not.

    IMO you came across as having had too much caffeine, really like your ring which is happy you enjoy your new tech but didn't give any convincing or logical reason why wearing the ring makes more sense and to justify such an absolute article title.
    Reply
  • DigitalKnight
    I agree 💯. I have a GW5 (Galaxy Watch 5) and it is not fun to wear to bed at all. I just bought the GF3 (Galaxy Fit 3) for my wife and I wore it to bed just one night and it was so comfortable for the entire night of sleep. In fact it was so comfortable that I decided to get one for myself and will use it for the night and my GW5 for the day. Only downside is the Samsung app makes you switch between the two devices. Can't wait for the Samsung Galaxy Ring (GR1?) and I hope they make changes to the Samsung Wear App that it picks up both the SGR and the GW5 or the GF3 at the same time and that the Samsung Health App combines that data correctly so you get very accurate health information.
    Reply
  • Michael L Hicks
    SyCoREAPER said:
    This reads more like a hidden product endorse than an actual review. You keep mentioning that ring by name.

    The entire article you repeat yourself and never give an actual reason why the ring is better. You say it's not comfort and a bunch of other things it's not.

    IMO you came across as having had too much caffeine, really like your ring which is happy you enjoy your new tech but didn't give any convincing or logical reason why wearing the ring makes more sense and to justify such an absolute article title.
    I did try and explain why smart rings were better (they're significantly more comfortable and provide more consistent results than smartwatches, which tend to vary wildly in my experience based on how loosely or tightly I wear them). I also don't drink coffee, lol.

    But I suppose I could have done a better job of explaining myself. My point is that with watches, I get results telling me that my heart is unhealthy, or I have sleep apnea, or my body temp is so low that I'm sick, sending me into a spiral of Google searching on what to do about my bad results. And then with another watch or a different fit, the results will be completely different, and I have to figure out which result to trust. It became easier to not wear watches at all and avoid the emotional whiplash.

    Again, it's not about Ultrahuman, I'm giving it a review this week and it has its issues. It's just that I don't like the sleep functionality of watches, and even though I'm seemingly in the minority on that, I know at least some people who agree with me and hate the feeling of wearing them to bed, who might prefer a ring instead.
    Reply
  • tismydroid
    SyCoREAPER said:
    This reads more like a hidden product endorse than an actual review. You keep mentioning that ring by name.

    The entire article you repeat yourself and never give an actual reason why the ring is better. You say it's not comfort and a bunch of other things it's not.

    IMO you came across as having had too much caffeine, really like your ring which is happy you enjoy your new tech but didn't give any convincing or logical reason why wearing the ring makes more sense and to justify such an absolute article title.
    Hmm, it seemed like the reason given in the article as to why to wear a ring for sleep instead of a smartwatch was pretty clear, imo.
    Reply
  • bveditz
    Yeah, I've never thought about buying a ring until recently. I don't like to wear rings. However a couple things have changed my mind. One, I'm in agreement that sleeping in a watch sucks, and as much as I'd like the sleep data, it's just not possible for me. Especially since i have a Galaxy 6 Classic that's been swapped with a nice metal band which makes it look really nice and professional but a terrible sleep watch. Secondly, I'm getting married soon (2nd time is the charm, let's hope), and wondering how these would look in place of a wedding band. I'm equally curious about having both the watch and ring and how that data will co-mingle. Samsung will be easiest but Google health will be fine since i do have that app that can sync the data between the two (since i like to go back and forth between Samsung and Pixel devices).
    Reply
  • CatsAreGods
    Michael L Hicks said:
    My point is that with watches, I get results telling me that my heart is unhealthy, or I have sleep apnea, or my body temp is so low that I'm sick, sending me into a spiral of Google searching on what to do about my bad results.
    I'm not even a doctor online but I think you are dealing with overthinking, micromanaging, and anxiety here. None of these things are actual medical devices; they are useful mostly for trends. For instance, last night my watch said I went to sleep at 10:45 PM when I was actually watching YouTube in the living room until 1:15 AM (and that included the times I got up to get snacks, presumably walking in my sleep). But over a week or more, I can see I'm getting enough proper sleep.
    Reply
  • nickreynolds
    Rings don't tell the time. End of story. People have worn watches for centuries. Complainers really have no complaint.
    Reply
  • BerryBubbles
    I see the point of @Michael L Hicks story.

    My husband can not sleep with a watch as he develops hives on his wrist from too many hours of continued use. A smart ring for night could be the answer.

    Nobody needs to be judged by their choice of devices to enhance their lives or achieve their goals. We do not live in a 'one size fits all world'.
    Reply
  • JohnMcL7
    SyCoREAPER said:
    This reads more like a hidden product endorse than an actual review. You keep mentioning that ring by name.

    The entire article you repeat yourself and never give an actual reason why the ring is better. You say it's not comfort and a bunch of other things it's not.

    IMO you came across as having had too much caffeine, really like your ring which is happy you enjoy your new tech but didn't give any convincing or logical reason why wearing the ring makes more sense and to justify such an absolute article title.
    That's exactly how it read to me particularly the way they go out of their way to make up excuses about smartwatches to make the ring look good which in turn actually makes the ring appear weak since they have to do that. I wear a Fenix 6s which is light, doesn't press into my skin, doesn't cause swelling or any discomfort yet gives reliable 24/7 HR monitoring which I suspect is the same for every other user of this watch...apart from the article's author of course who apparently can't wear a watch. I'd question their position for writing articles on health and fitness when they have such 'unique' problems.

    It's very disappointing this site has to go with such a poorly written promotional clickbait article necessitating its removal from my news sources.
    Reply