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I love to sleep. Then, after I wake up, I love to find out how well I slept. It might be because I’m highly competitive or that I like the validation of an app confirming whether I’ve had a good or bad night’s rest. Despite this, I’ve avoided most sleep trackers because they’re generally too intrusive or uncomfortable. So when Amazon unveiled the Halo Rise, I was excited by its premise. For $140 (on sale now for $100), the Rise promises to use motion sensing to track your breathing rate and use that information to calculate how long you’ve slept. It’s also a bedside lamp, clock and smart alarm, and looks pretty, to boot.
It fits nicely into my life in many ways. First, physically. The Halo Rise is a gray CD-sized disc (remember those? And yes I know the D already stands for Disc) that’s flat on one side and convex on the other and rest on top of a metal stand. The even surface houses LEDs that show the time, as well as an arc of lights that can be set to simulate the gradual glow of sunrise and wake you up more gently.
Amazon Amazon Halo Rise
- Simple setup
- Effective sleep tracking
- Inoffensive design
- Buttons could be bigger and spaced further apart
I like the Rise’s clean, modern aesthetic that should blend in with most furnishings. Setup was also surprisingly painless. Like Google’s Nest Hub, which similarly uses motion detection to track your sleep, the Halo Rise needs to be next to your bed within arm’s reach. I was worried that my nightstand wasn’t tall enough for the device, but it was able to work even though it was set a few inches lower than Amazon recommended.
Placing the Rise close to your bed is also important because, unlike the Nest Hub, it doesn’t have an onboard mic, which means you’ll have to reach over and hit the snooze button when it goes off. This brings me to one of my small complaints: There are two buttons on the top of the Rise. A small, pinky-sized one for dismissing the alarm and a larger one on its left for snoozing. I know this is how most alarm clocks are designed and it makes sense – if you’re awake enough to accurately press the tinier button then you likely won’t need a follow up. But since there’s no way to vocally stop the Halo Rise, the fact that the buttons are so small and close to each other is pretty frustrating. I accidentally hit snooze so many times and had to run back to my bedroom while brushing my teeth when the device rang again ten minutes later.
That’s my main gripe with the Halo Rise’s hardware, and it honestly isn’t much. I also wish it were a bit bigger so the buttons could be easier to hit and the clock font easier to read. But those are the only times you have to physically interact with it, everything else happens in the app.
Every morning, Amazon will show you a summary of the last night, including a score of and amount of time you’ve been asleep. Alongside that is a message either congratulating you on doing well or cautioning you to go easy that day if you hadn’t caught enough shut eye. I’ve definitely used the feedback from the Rise as an excuse to get out of working or working out in the last few weeks, when it told me to take it easy after getting just two hours of sleep.
In general, I’ve found the Halo Rise pretty accurate at detecting when I’ve dozed off and woken up. It actually performed better than Google’s smart display, which would often mistake when I awoke. I don’t like how, unlike most other sleep trackers, Amazon also includes my “time taken to fall asleep” as part of my so-called performance each night. Typically, after I get in bed, I spend some time scrolling Reddit or playing games and I don’t consider that time spent trying to fall asleep. I wish the Rise were smart enough to use its onboard light sensor to determine when I put my phone away and turn off the light. That is when I’m actually trying to drift into la la land, but I guess not everyone sleeps in the dark so this might not be suitable for all.
Still, I found the app surprisingly informative. Tapping into details brings up a chart of the sleep stages I was in the night before, as well as a timeline below it showing at which points during the night there were “Light Disruptions.” For me, the results were unsurprising – since I don’t use blackout curtains, my room got bright at sunrise every day. Otherwise, unless I had gotten up and turned on my lamp, there were no disruptions. This page also tells me the average brightness, humidity and temperature in my room overnight.
What was most helpful was understanding that my sleep environment was warmer than I thought. I was struggling to fall and stay asleep until the app suggested I adjust it to the recommended range of 60 to 70 degrees (Fahrenheit). As someone who avoids using the air conditioner out of guilt, having this information validated my desire and I started to turn it on more often right before bedtime. I slept much better after that, and the app congratulated me on keeping my room’s temperature within the ideal range.
To be clear, the Halo Rise isn’t the only sleep tracker that can do this. The Nest Hub also tracks your room’s temperature and light. But instead of humidity, Google uses its onboard mics to listen for sounds of snoring or coughing. As someone who doesn’t snore, but coughs a lot due to dry air, I found it more helpful to get insight on how humid my environment was. Depending on your concerns, your preferences here might differ.
Another key difference between the Halo Rise and the Nest Hub is that Google will track daytime naps while Amazon does not. If you go back to bed in the middle of the day, the Rise will not track your sleep. However, on one particular Saturday when I was recovering from a long, hard week, I stayed in bed for hours after waking up and passed out at 1:48pm. I finally got out of bed at about 4:43pm, and the Amazon app actually updated afterwards to add those three-ish hours to my record.
Every morning in the past, I’d reach for my phone, check my notifications and the weather, as well as my horoscope. I know, it’s not scientific and I don’t put a lot of stock in it, but I think of it as a way to start my day off better prepared. Since setting up the Halo Rise, my first check-in has been replaced by looking at the Halo app. It’ll tell me whether I should take my daily workout easy, and how early I might need to get to bed that night.
The Halo Rise is also a small but significant piece of Amazon’s ongoing foray into the business of health and wellness. The device sits in the most intimate of our spaces and offers help on a specific area of wellbeing. Together with products like the Halo Band and app features like body composition scanning, mobility and posture assessment, as well as the controversial tone monitoring that monitors how you speak, the company is clearly investing in health management tools. Considering Amazon also recently finished acquiring One Medical and launched its pharmacy in 2020, its ambitions are obvious. The question is whether we’re willing to trade our personal data for the potential convenience that an all-Amazon healthcare infrastructure might bring.