Back in January, I slipped on the new Oura Ring Gen 3 to track every detail of my slumber. I was excited to improve my sleep. Now eight months later and it looks like my sleep has gotten worse. I’m not sure what to do about it. Why’d I get an Oura Ring? How accurate are the metrics it tracks? And how has it affected my sleep quality? Well, let’s get into it!

Why I Have an Oura Ring

The third generation of the Oura Ring was released Late in 2021 [1]. It was highly anticipated after earlier generations drew high-profile users like Peter Attia, Tim Ferriss, and Matthew Walker. It’s supposedly the most accurate consumer-grade sleep tracker available. And most studies back this up.

While it tracks and scores three categories of health (Sleep, Readiness, and Activity), I got it for sleep tracking. It’s the one area not covered by my Apple Watch. At least not yet. So, my perspective comes from my main use case for it… sleep tracking.

Sleep Score Metrics

The Oura Ring has sensors to track movement, skin temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and heart rate. This, in combination with machine learning, allows it to be fairly accurate compared to the gold-standard polysomnography (or a sleep study). So, here’s how Oura Ring determines your sleep quality or sleep score:

  • Total Sleep: This is different from Time in Bed, which is also tracked. It’s the total time you’re asleep. It excludes the time to fall asleep or time awake throughout the night. A study from Oura showed this to be 96% accurate. That’s good. I consistently average just over seven hours a night but rarely find this metric that useful. Since my sleep schedule is so consistent, and it always shows seven hours, I often gloss over it.
  • Efficiency: Sleep efficiency is the percentage of Total Sleep relative to Time in Bed. Anything above 85% is acceptable while optimal tends to be in the low 90s. Mine is typically around 83%. I haven’t found this to be accurate enough for my liking though. Commonly, Oura Ring shows I’ve woken ten times each night. While I know humans wake frequently throughout the night without realizing or remembering it, it makes it hard to gauge its accuracy. I only remember waking once last night despite what the chart below shows. Other times it’ll show I’ve slept through the night when I remember waking from a nightmare. Because of these issues, I tend not to trust or use this metric either.
  • Restfulness: This is a gauge for how much tossing and turning occurs during your time in bed. Mine is always horrible. I can’t remember the last night my Restfulness score didn’t say “Pay attention.” Yet, I’ve never thought of myself as restless. On top of this, I have no clue how to fix it. Oura provides suggestions like optimizing bedroom temperature, noise, and luminance. But I have soundproofed, blackout bedroom curtains, a chilled mattress pad, and a programmed thermostat. Oura suggests limiting food, alcohol, and caffeine intake near bedtime, but I never do any of these anyway. Oura has other suggestions too, but the fact is my sleep hygiene is good. If it could be better, I’d make it better. Besides strapping myself to the bed, I’m not sure how to improve my Restfulness score. Or if it’s just an inaccurate metric. I may ask my primary care physician, but for now… I ignore it.
  • REM Sleep: This is my second most problematic metric. Optimal amounts tend to be over 1.5 hours per night. While I averaged 1.25 hours for the first few months, I now average around 45 minutes per night. Oura consistently flags me for this too. Again, their suggestions for improvement are similar to Restfulness. So, I’m unsure what to do with this too. Is it possible my REM sleep requirement is lower than most? Despite Oura saying it’s 90% accurate, could it be less accurate for me? Without knowing these answers, I can’t use this metric.
  • Deep Sleep: Oura indicates this metric is 90% accurate too, similar to REM sleep. Optimal amounts tend to be around 1.5 hours per night again. I average just above that amount. I don’t have any issues with the Deep Sleep metric, but I do question this. Since Oura shows REM Sleep and Stage 3-4 Deep Sleep as sleep quality contributors, and omits Stage 1-2 Light Sleep, is Light Sleep not useful? I find it hard to believe that the body would generate much of its sleep in a useless stage. It may be that the Oura Ring is only 80% accurate at detecting this stage so it isn’t accurate enough to be a dedicated contributor. I don’t know, just a guess. With most of my sleep being light sleep, my score tends to suffer from limited REM and Deep sleep. But with the accuracy of light sleep being low, is it possible that I’m getting more REM and Deep Sleep than currently tracked? Again, I don’t know.
  • Latency: This is the time to fall asleep. The optimal range is between 15 and 20 minutes. While Oura says I average 17 minutes to fall asleep, I find this metric to be wildly off. In the screenshot below it shows I fell asleep in 9 minutes. I know I didn’t. If you look at the sleep graph, you can see me “sleeping” and waking minutes later. But I know I never actually fell asleep. Commonly, it takes me double the time to fall asleep compared to what Oura shows. This could be because I can lay in bed, still as a log, yet be wide awake with rushing thoughts. There are days Oura says I fall asleep in four minutes, yet I climbed out of bed thirty minutes later because I couldn’t fall asleep. I’m not saying I have insomnia or serious issues falling asleep, but the Oura Ring makes me look like a professional sleeper. Yet, I know I struggle with this.
  • Timing: This is the consistency at which you go to bed and wake up at the appropriate time each day. Mine is always optimal. Since I go to bed around 10pm each night, and wake up around 7am each morning, my sleep timing isn’t a problem.

Has It Improved My Sleep?

All these sleep contributors are combined into one Sleep Score. This is the score that grades your total quality of sleep each night. This is one feature I love. Oura offers the ability to see any of their tracked metrics in trend charts. Instead of obsessing over one night’s sleep, you can compare day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month averages. I find the accessibility of Oura’s data lovely. But that hasn’t translated to improved sleep for me.

My Sleep Score started around 78 in January but now sits at 70. My sleep score has gotten worse and I’m not sure what to do about it. I follow each of Oura’s behavioral and environmental suggestions. I listen to and implement all of Matthew Walker’s sleep hygiene tips (the world’s most popular sleep expert). With my level of effort, you’d think my Sleep Score would be in the 90s. I’ll probably run this by my primary care physician too, but here’s my problem. It’s possible Oura has made me aware of my otherwise unknown poor sleep quality. But it hasn’t helped me fix it. Or it’s possible the accuracy of the ring, or the accuracy of sleep contributor requirements, are wrong. In that case I could be concerned about nothing. In either case, I can’t say it’s improved my sleep. While I still check the metrics every morning out of curiosity, I don’t find my Oura Ring to be that useful.

Final Thoughts

I actually think the Oura Ring is useful for many people. It’s pretty accurate. It can increase your sleep quality awareness and offers many helpful suggestions to improve sleep. It also keeps people honest by objectively quantifying information and keeping it top of mind. It’ll help people focus on sleep which is often forgotten and neglected. But for someone like me, that treats sleep like gold, I haven’t found it useful. If I’m already following optimal sleep hygiene guidelines, and I can’t identify actionable ways to improve my sleep, what’s the point? That, along with it not being 100% accurate, makes it almost useless for me. Yet I still check it every morning out of curiosity. While I can’t say this is my latest habit for health excellence, it just might be yours.

Hi, I’m Brandon Zerbe

Welcome to myHealthSciences! Every week I share habits for health excellence. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance and Minimalism. You can learn more about me here.