I've spent the last week sleeping while wearing the Garmin Fenix 6. It's a magnificent device and the sleep tracking that it offers feeds data into one of its really interesting features called Body Battery.
I'm going to be talking more about Body Battery in the review of the Fenix 6 which will be completed in the next couple of days - but we need to talk about sleep tracking now.
Sleep tracking has become one of the wellbeing features that has moved into the limelight in recent years. There is loads of research that demonstrates that good quality sleep is important for your health and mental wellbeing; it's important for growth and recovery, for boosting attentiveness in education; it boosts your athletic performance, lowers your blood pressure and boosts your mood. It's golden.
But sleeping while wearing the Fenix 6 - or any other watch - doesn't come easily. It's a big device, designed to fend off the abuse of an active and outdoor life. While I've managed to get some great 8-hour sleeps, there's the feeling that every time you roll over or slip you encounter the watch.
And it's not only about Garmin - Fitbit's excellent sleep tracking faces the same problems. You wake up in the morning, sweaty-wristed with an imprint of the Fitbit Versa on your face.
Seeking convergence through divergence
What I really want is a dedicated sleep tracker to wear from companies like Garmin and Fitbit - or even Apple. Something smooth, flattened, soft. More like a cosy pair of pyjamas that can be slipped on at bedtime, while the watch returns to the night stand.
It might sound counter-intuitive in a world of convergence where every single device does every single thing. But sleep is different: it's not about convenience it's very much about comfort. I don't want this device to do anything else, just to take over the sleep tracking duties currently delegated to the watch I wear when running.
Sure, there are sleep trackers that you don't have to wear. There are mats and bedside monitors (both of which are useless if you travel) and sleep isn't something that should be taken in isolation, that's not what people want. Divergent data is meaningless - that data needs to be part of the bigger system, whether that's Garmin Connect, Fitbit, Google Fit or Apple Health.
Returning to that mention of Body Battery, that's exactly what this Garmin system does - it converges that data into one score. It tracks you 24/7, it knows how active you are, how much stress you encounter during the day, what your exercise is taking out of you - and what your sleep is putting back in. It's part of a complete picture of what your body is doing.
But ultimately, long-term sleep tracking solutions can't rest within one device you're expected to wear for everything. The example with the Fenix 6 demonstrates that perfectly, but I also suspect that what's stopping Apple putting sleep tracking into Apple Watch.
Apple has moved aggressively into the health and wellbeing sector. Apple Watch does all that activity monitoring, it's looking out for your heart, and sleep is an obvious slice of the health pie that's missing. Apple actually bought a sleep-tracking company, Beddit, in 2017 and there have been numerous rumours about Apple closing this particular ring in its health-tracking set.
Sleeping in Apple Watch wouldn't work. Not just for the reasons I've mentioned - trying to get to sleep wearing a watch (Milanese Loop or not) - but also the Apple Watch doesn't have the battery life for it. It needs charging every night. But a simple, soft, comfortable band to wear at night and feed data into Apple Health…
The convergence of health data needs to come from the divergence of the hardware we're getting it from. So, please, Garmin (and Fitbit, Apple, et al.), please sell me a dedicated sleep tracker so I can rest in peace.