Last winter, I noticed a trend in my social feeds: People I followed were posting screenshots of their Oura Ring sleep scores with the same pride as one has when sharing their Spotify Wrapped. As someone who hasn't really slept in more than a year thanks to a sleep-averse toddler, my eyes popped at stats claiming nine hours of restful sleep. How were so many people waking up in the morning feeling good about their ZZZs?
Until then, the only thing I knew about the Oura Ring was that Kim Kardashian has a gold one. Launched in 2015 via Kickstarter, the smart ring tracks the typical health stats like a smart watch, but with a slimmer design. The latest version, launched in November 2021, looks like a piece of on-trend jewelry — and is advertised as being so much less cumbersome than other wearables that you forget you’re wearing it. On the strength of these social media screenshots, I decided to try the Oura Ring to see if it would help my sleep.
Since having my daughter, I’ve used wearables to keep track of just how little sleep I’m getting and use my terrible scores to get sympathy. My year with a FitBit elicited interesting observations about my sleep and activity levels, but the sensor and band irritated my skin, and the device itself was a real outfit-ruiner. I had better luck with the Apple Watch, which I wore for six months, but couldn’t get past all of the distractions — I was always fidgeting with my notifications.
The lightweight, stylish Oura Ring Generation 3, which was sent to me by the brand, does a lot more than blend in with my other hand jewelry. Within a week of using the gold ring full-time, I learned more about my sleep and lifestyle habits and the effect they had on my overall health than with any other wearable I’ve tried before. The app also served me useful tips on how to better prepare myself for sleep and how to make the most of a night that I knew would be interrupted. Over the three months I used the ring, I found myself excitedly reading the data from the night before as if it were a freshly loaded Instagram feed. Within three weeks of using the app, I saw an upward trend in my sleep scores.
Of course, I knew not to rely on the data as hard fact, as it’s not a medical device — something that was apparent when the ring would log me rocking my baby as taking a hike. According to sports and psychology performance doctor Haley Perlus, Ph.D., while the Oura Ring is definitely “more than a toy,” it shouldn’t replace regular visits with your physician, since they are the experts at analyzing health data. That said, the info from the Oura Ring can have unique benefits. “The data can be interesting and helpful to compare certain outcomes against daily behaviors — if you ate something different and stayed awake longer, you can see how those behaviors altered your ‘regular’ sleep activity,” she says.
Read on to hear about my experience with the Oura Ring and how it compares to other health trackers.
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- Price: $299-$399
- Best for: Tracking sleep and health data
- Your rating: 5/5
- Brand: Oura
- What we like: Comfortable wear, insightful reports
- What we don't like: App delays
What Is The Oura Ring?
The original Oura Ring debuted on Kickstarter in 2015 and received more than half a million dollars in fundraising. In 2018, the ring switched to wireless charging, giving it a sleeker profile, and in November 2021, an even slimmer Generation 3 dropped with enough sensors to track your menstrual cycle. You wouldn’t know the titanium ring was a sensor-filled device at first or even second glance; it’s basically a chunky, modern ring that I wear on my pointer finger and get plenty of compliments on.
The underside of the ring reveals a collection of sensors that monitor your heart rate, step count, body temperature, and blood oxygen levels around the clock. The connected app provides health insights, like how long you were in each sleep cycle, how restorative your nap was, or how well your body recovered after a long walk. If you sign up for the period tracking beta program in Settings, you can predict your period and get six days of advance warning. The app sometimes takes a full minute to sync to the ring, which means you can’t check on your steps in real time as you can with the iPhone.
The waterproof, scratch-resistant ring ranges in weight from 4 to 6 grams, depending on size, and comes in four different finishes: silver ($299), black ($299), stealth ($399), and gold ($399). Pop it on the charger once a week for an hour and it’s good to go for another four to seven days of 24/7 wear.
How Does The Oura Ring Work?
The ring shines a green LED light through the skin of your finger that watches for changes in your blood flow. (Yes, you will subtly notice this in the dark.) These changes can detect your heart rate, blood oxygenation levels, respiration — how many breaths you take per minute — and your heart rate variability — fluctuations in the time between your heart beats. The ring also has seven temperature sensors, which help in period tracking, and an accelerometer to count steps, swimming strokes, and other activities.
This data is sent via Bluetooth to the accompanying app to provide both hard stats — your current pulse, total amount of shut-eye, and distance covered since waking — and also comprehensive insights — like what your current pulse says about your body’s ability to recover from a brisk walk following a garbage night of sleep. The app will also offer suggestions in the Home tab, like “Your ideal bedtime is approaching. Go to bed between 8:30 and 10:00” or “Try to find time to rest today, your body needs it.”
The data tracking isn’t always perfect. For the first two weeks, it counted the time I spent scrolling TikTok as deep sleep, since I was lying down. But the app lets you modify your activity to help it better learn your behavior. I changed the data to show that I was awake during that time, and after about a week of manual updating, the app stopped tracking my pre-bed routine as shut-eye.
A year into using a FitBit Charge, I started sharing my abysmal sleep score with my partner. “Twenty-eight last night!” I’d exclaim, constantly shocking myself with how low it could go. (The scale is out of 100, with an 85 being considered optimal.) After my first month using the Oura Ring, my scores were all in the 80s. Why? Because when you have a bad night of sleep, the app doesn’t just tell you that you suck at turning your brain off — it tells you when you should aim to get in bed the next night and how much physical activity your body can handle that day.
For example: One night, I got into bed at 8:30 p.m., as the ring suggested, to make up for sleeplessness the night prior. I fell asleep around 9 p.m. When I woke up the next morning, I was shocked to see that my score was only 80, despite it being the earliest I've been to bed since elementary school. The app let me know that my heart rate was pretty high before bed. Rushing around cleaning, getting ready for bed, and stressing about going to sleep so early actually made it hard for my body to rest. Increased sleep latency — aka, how long it took me to fall asleep — dropped my score, which meant that even though I spent more time in bed, it wasn’t as restful as it could be. The app suggested that I do something mellow before getting into bed, or try one of the app’s free mediations, so that I didn’t force my body into being tired. The next night, I was really conscious of my activity levels, playing soft music to wind down more gradually. I fell asleep faster, reached a deeper sleep quicker, and had a more restorative shut eye. In the morning I felt the difference — and had a sleep score of 89 to match. When I actually followed the suggestions and paid attention to the data proactively, the Oura Ring improved my sleep.
Of course, some issues are out of your control — like a bout of work-related insomnia or a kid that wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. But the device changed my relationship with sleep from zombie-level bad to halfway decent.
Is The Oura Ring Worth The Price?
Yes. Splurge on the gold ($399) if that matches your current ring game. While I didn’t pay for this ring, it’s helping me sleep more and move better. I’m already planning on buying one for a fellow exhausted mom’s birthday in July.
With the Oura Ring, I am rarely conscious of the fact that I am wearing a health tracker. It’s comfortable and requires very little care. I look forward to reading my health insights every morning, and while it’s not perfect at collecting data, I can rely on it for a pretty good idea of how well I slept, how physical I got, and how my body is doing each day. While I wouldn’t hate it if the next generation were a hair thinner, I love that it blends in with my aesthetic and doesn’t have a distracting display. After three months of use, I could never go back to a wrist tracker.