Healthy Obsessions The Adventures of a Mild Obsessive Compulsive

Sleep Tracking: Looking at Fitbit

Of all the sleep tracking devices, my fitbit is the one I’ve used longest. Unless you count the CPAP.

To use the fitbit for sleep tracking, you slip it into a wrist band, worn on your non-dominant hand, press the button (there is only one button) until the fitbit blinks START at you, and go to sleep. Pretty simple.

It uses the same tech as Sleep Cycle: accelerometer. As we already know, that’s a standard measuring device for sleep tracking. There are two major things that fitbit does better than Sleep Cycle.

1. The tracker is directly on you

As mentioned in the prior post, Sleep Cycle is on the mattress during use, not on you. And you wouldn’t want it to be on you; the iPhone is a great deal bulkier than a fitbit. However, because it’s not directly tracking your movements, only the reflections of your movements as channeled by your mattress, it can’t help but be less accurate. The fitbit, being directly on you, is going to have much more direct input. It cuts out the middle man, as it were.

2. They only make claims they can back up

This may be my teaching days coming back to haunt me, but, for the love of tiny apples, Do Not Make Claims You Can’t Back-up! Fitbit is very careful about their terminology. They want to make sure they can prove their claims, so they don’t try to deduce or diagnose from the data they collect. Unlike Sleep Cycle, which tries to tell you when you’re dreaming vs. in deep sleep. Which it can’t do. Of the three devices under consideration, the Zeo is the only one that could possibly distinguish between sleep phases.

Fitbit instead shows you a (much more) detailed graph of your movement during sleep. They use the terms active and awakenings and asleep. These  terms are much easier to prove than dreaming or deep sleep. Which implies, to this particular customer, attention to detail and credibility.

That said, fitbit isn’t perfect. As many reviewers have noted, the wrist band is fairly flimsy. With repeated use, the fabric stretches out, which makes wearing it uncomfortable. It’s also not unheard of for a fitbit to slip loose of the band and go wandering your bed without you. It’s also not unheard of for a fitbit to get lost in general. It’s small. This is part of the deal. Any small gadget will have that problem.

The fitbit is also breakable. Mine apparently broke in a way hitherto unseen by the good folks at Fitbit. Here’s a picture:

If you look closely at the clip end, you can see the blue plastic cracking. Not good. It cracked even further than that a few hours later. I was worried that the clip would come apart entirely.

My theory? Two things. The first of which: it truly cannot clip onto thick materials. I only ever wore it in the center of my bra, and it had trouble accommodating the fabric there. The second theory: the external clip, which could accommodate my bra, and therefore was my default for wearing the fitbit, left one side of the clip free, as it were. Which meant that side could twist. The external clip now has a little cupped bit on the bottom, which keeps the fitbit completely contained. Amen.

Customer service was great. Although my fitbit was long past the 90 day warranty, they replaced it. Quickly, and with a minimum of fuss. This is a company that takes customer service seriously. I’ll forgive a great deal if I can trust you to fix whatever goes wrong. Kinda like dating.

Since then, using the external clip, I’ve had no problems.

It’s also worth noting that the fitbit is a multipurpose device. It does more than just track sleep. It’s a superb pedometer. Which is good, because at $99, it’s not a cheap pedometer.


  • Small and unobtrusive
  • Accurate
  • Good pedometer (multipurpose)
  • Great for individual use
  • Nice user interface
  • Good customer service
  • Supportable claims


  • Small and easy to lose
  • Can’t clip on to thick fabrics without external clip
  • Breakable
  • Expensive at $99

More pros than cons on this one. The $99 price tag is hefty, particularly in comparison to Sleep Cycle’s $0.99 (with the caveat that you must have an iPhone already to use Sleep Cycle). However, if you’re serious about tracking your sleep or you want something that can also help you get fit, it’s a better buy.

That said, it is somewhat hard to get a hold of, with the company still back-ordered considerably. The only vendor I’ve heard of having it in store — or easily shippable to store–  is Best Buy. I cannot vouch for availability, but last I checked the San Carlos location near me had it in stock.

Fitbit Ultra

One Thought on “Sleep Tracking: Looking at Fitbit

  1. #1 problem with the fitbit – it expects you to wear clothing while you sleep. How the hell can anyone sleep while bound in fabric? There, I diagnosed your sleep problem. BAM.

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