I like data and I like toys, so when I find a toy that gives me lots of data, I’m going to want one. That was the rationale behind my purchase of a Withings Sleep Tracking Mat. I got mine from Amazon and it cost me a penny shy of £100. You can get them 4 pennies cheaper by buying them directly from Withings who allow you to “add a second device for your partner” at absolutely no discount whatsoever.
The device is personal to the person who sleeps on the side of the bed on which it’s situated, and it’s about the width of a double bed. The mat goes under your mattress at around chest height. The slats on my bed aren’t very wide so I put a piece of cardboard from the Amazon box it was delivered in underneath it to give it a little more support, but it’s probably not necessary.
After that, set up is ridiculously easy – download the app, there’s a bluetooth to phone connection to get wifi settings, a 10 minute or so calibration to understand your mattress and you’re away.
I don’t feel the sleep mat under my mattress at all. It’s too flat and other than a thin control box, some sensor cables and some fabric, there’s not much to it. The bit you’ll need to be aware of is the power cable that comes out the side of the bed. Some creative thinking might be required to hide it!
Well… Go to bed. The Withings Sleep Mat really is a “plug in and forget about it” device, until you want to look at the results. Of course, it’s what the results tell you that is probably the reason you want to get a sleep monitor in the first place. Withings list three reasons for having it.
Advanced Sleep Tracking
The accompanying app tracks a variety of metrics from the mat.
The bit that I guess most people are looking for is the graph of their sleep cycle. The app will show you your sleep in terms of being not asleep, REM, light sleep and deep sleep. The accuracy of this is what I most concerned over, but it appears to be fairly accurate. The results were very similar to the Sleep Cycle app that I used to run on my phone years ago. I also woke up during the night and checked the time one night, and the mat detected it, plotting it perfectly on the graph.
The consistency with the other apps is what makes me think that the mat is unaffected by sharing your bed with another human and / or cat.
Your “overall sleep score” is provided. I believe that Withings have carried on developing, which means that a perfect score is now over 100 points. The score is determined from sleep duration (not time in bed), depth of sleep (bad, average, good), regularity (based on consistency of bed time and get up time), number of sleep interruptions, time to get to sleep and time to get up.
Above is a comparison of a good night’s sleep for me versus a bad night. The good night is fairly standard for me (even though that was actually one of the few nights I did snore, but 6 minutes out of 7.5 hours isn’t too bad!). The bad night I’d played football and sprained my knee. I was late going to bed anyway and the pain in my knee was a problem.
I can understand the standard pressure sensor metrics for my sleep pattern. I can understand the microphone picking up snoring. It’s the sensitivity of the sensors to judge breathing and heart rate from under a mattress that both confuses and impresses me.
The only way to check these metrics would be comparison to another sleep pad, and I don’t really want another when I can only use one at a time!
All the results are delivered to your phone within a minute if not seconds of getting up in the morning. That’s to say that you might need to move your morning social media review from bed to the bathroom if you want to check your sleep at the same time.
Personalised Sleep Coaching
Tapping a metric in the app takes you to a page of information about the factors that affect it. For example, it suggests that I will get to sleep faster if I think back to what I’ve liked from that day, keep my phone out the bedroom, keep room temperature low and dim the lights before bedtime.
My average time to sleep is good though, according to the app. The Withings Sleep Mat does not work with HomeKit, Alexa or Google Home, only with IFTTT. This means that it can’t tell the temperature of the room or where my phone is, let alone what I was thinking about as I drifted off.
For a lot of my scores, the only advice I get is to go to bed at the same time every night and to get up at the same time every morning.
There is a “Sleep Smarter” program within the Withings app that encourages you try to sleep with regular timings even at weekends to avoid “social jet lag”.
“Social jet lag” is a the term for a condition which occurs when weekday sleeping hours differ significantly from those of the weekend, can cause fatigue, depression, or memory loss, and even contribute to chronic health issues, such as heart disease and obesity. Sleep Smarter helps you avoid the negative effects of this phenomenon by guiding you to more consistent sleep and wake times, regardless of the day of the week.
That’s what I call “pinch of salt” advice. We know that sleep is good for you, but it reads as if it’s telling you that having a social life causes depression. There’s a balance to be had in letting life get in the way of sleep occasionally.
Good advice? Yes, probably. “Personalised Sleep Coaching”? Not too sure.
As I mentioned, the Withings Sleep Mat is IFTTT compatible. For those who don’t know, IFTTT stands for “if this, then that” which kinda explains what it does. It takes an input from a smart home device, an e-mail, a linked spreadsheet etc and produces an output from a smart home device, an e-mail, a linked spreadsheet etc.
For the sleep mat, it uses the knowledge of whether you’ve gone to bed or got up to trigger things like turning on lights and turning down the heating.
The complaints I saw were that it turns the lights off even when you want to read in bed. Yes, it will. The assumption the sleep mat makes is that any in bed activity is an attempt at sleep and, well, it’s not always. For home automation purposes, it’s best to stick to getting up. When it can’t feel any pressure, it’s more likely to do what you want rather than being able to differentiate what activity the pressure relates to when you go to bed.
The complaint I have is that I turned an applet on that would turn on some lights when I got up, to test it. It worked, but my Hue lights also turned on randomly through the night until I turned them off at the switch. The applet did what it should have done, but also a lot that it shouldn’t, so be careful which applet you choose.
The Withings Sleep Mat appears to work. I’m sceptical about the level of sleep coaching even if the information seems to be good. I also think that the IFTTT integration has limited practical use.
I don’t know how it does it, but the sleep mat does appear to track my sleep well, uninhibited by people or pets who share the bed. I say this in comparison to what I know about my sleep already rather than in comparison with results from other sleep mats which I don’t have so can’t test.
The question, then, is what the use of the sleep mat really is. It gives lots of good data, but what can you use it for? After all, I can’t force myself to sleep deeper. If you think you have sleep apnea, the sleep mat will probably be a good test to go and get more testing. If you aren’t one of the 6% of people with sleep apnea, the sleep mat will confirm that but probably won’t give you a great deal of additional information to help that you couldn’t find elsewhere on the internet having not spent £100 on hardware.
That the sleep mat tracks your data in an app could be beneficial to some to get them in to habits and see progress. Habits are the very heart of a sleep mat. It gives you the advice you need in an app to help you get in to habits around your lighting, heating and exercise but its major advice, emphasised at every opportunity, is regularity. So it comes down to cost again. The thick end of £100 to get in to a sleep habit and be held accountable? That’s up to you, and you’ll have to decide that based on whether you can accurately tell how you feel your sleep was, or whether you want the data to prove it.
A study in 2014 showed that people who think that they’ve had a good night’s sleep perform better in cognitive tests than those who think they had a bad night. Students were basically fooled in to thinking that they were testing new sleep monitoring equipment. They were shown lots of fake but impressive scientific data about sleep, and then went to bed.
Half the students were told they had a cracking night’s sleep, while the other half were told the opposite. The students who were told they got a good night’s sleep performed significantly better in Paced Auditory Serial Addition Tests, a cognitive exercise which measured their ability to listen and process information.
This could be the value of the Withings Sleep Mat. I’ve been complaining about feeling tired and run down and I’ve felt that it has had an adverse effect on my performance at work and elsewhere. If I have some data that shows that I’m actually pretty well rested, maybe it will help me feel better, or at least take sleep out the equation when trying to work out why I’m not feeling 100%.
I haven’t been paid for this review. I bought the Withings Sleep Mat myself. Withings probably don’t even know about this review or that I bought one.