How the Nest Hub Can Help You Understand Your Sleep Patterns

It monitors you with radar

Key Takeaways

  • The second generation of the Google Nest Hub can monitor your sleep using radar.
  • Some observers say having your sleep monitored could be an invasion of privacy.
  • Google says you can opt-out of the sleep monitoring feature at any time.
Four Google Nest Hubs placed in a row
Google

Google’s new Nest Hub tracks your sleep using a built-in radar sensor, potentially setting off security alarms for some people. But the pros may outweigh the assumed cons.

The second-generation Nest Hub is a smart display and speaker that launches on March 30 for $99. The new Nest can measure micro-movements, like your chest moving while breathing, to determine when you’re sleeping. But not everyone thinks it’s a good idea for companies to monitor your sleep.

"Even if the idea of having radar waves pummeling you as you try to sleep doesn’t keep you up at night, the privacy implications should," Ray Walsh, a data privacy expert at the ProPrivacy, said in an email interview. "For users, it will be important for Google to provide transparency over how sleep reports are leveraged and stored, as the sleep data could potentially reveal sensitive information that can be exploited to deduce secondary information about a user’s underlying health."

Sleep Tracking Can Be Helpful

Not all observers agree the Nest is a security concern. Julie Ryan Evans, an editor at SecurityNerd.com, said the Nest is more secure because it’s tracking you with radar rather than cameras, so you don’t have to worry about being watched while you sleep.

"Google says only sleep-event data is uploaded to servers so it can be analyzed, and data can be deleted any time," she added. "It’s also an opt-in feature so that it can be disabled at any time."

"If you are tossing and turning, then it guesses that you aren't sleeping or sleeping lightly."

Sleep trackers can help enlighten users about sleep quantity, Dr. Abhinav Singh of SleepFoundation.org said in an email interview. 

"We often tend to overestimate the sleep we get, typically by 45 min-1 hour," he said. "The trackers can help us recognize our actual sleeping time and help us aim for the recommended seven to eight hours. On the other hand, sometimes users may get 'over-obsessed' with their sleep data and may eventually end up losing sleep."

But not all sleep trackers are equal, Singh said. At-home sleep trackers are improving with their sleep-wake quantity assessments, but often overreach in their quality-of-sleep assessment, compared to laboratory testing.

"Until brain-wave activity is incorporated into assessing sleep-wake states and stages of sleep, at-home trackers will always be trailing in the accuracy of their assessments," Singh added. "There is also a great deal of variability in the accuracy of trackers, as there has an unprecedented boom in this space."

Radar Could Beat Wearing a Smartwatch

Sleep expert Katelin Gates said in an email interview that the new Nest Hub could be a good alternative for those who don’t want to wear uncomfortable sleep trackers or a smartwatch that checks their sleep. 

"If you are tossing and turning, then it guesses that you aren't sleeping or sleeping lightly," Gates said. "If you aren't moving around a lot, it will likely guess that you are sleeping deeply."

"Sometimes users may get 'over-obsessed' with their sleep data and may eventually end up losing sleep."

But Gates raised concerns about the accuracy of the Nest. "For example, I tried using a sleep tracker when I used to have insomnia and spent the whole night awake just laying there and didn't move around a lot," she explained. "The tracker thought I slept pretty well, even though I was awake. The sensors can, unfortunately, be inaccurate. You would need to go to a sleep lab and measure your brain waves to measure your sleep accurately."

Google Nest Hub tracking a woman's sleeping activity
Google

Gates said she was impressed that the new Nest Hub also will sense parameters such as the amount of light in your bedroom and the temperature in the room, so you can learn how the environment might be affecting your sleep. It also can tell you if you’re coughing or snoring in the middle of the night, and how much. 

"Many people don't realize they have sleep apnea and never become diagnosed," Gates said. "Sleep apnea can cause many health risks and never let you get the good quality sleep that you need to be healthy."

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