No Ring-ing Endorsement
Here’s the short version of my Oura ring review:
It’s not great, but it’s good enough.
I forked out a few hundred bucks for it because I hoped it would help me improve my sleep.
Eleven months later, despite putting serious thought and effort into sleeping better, these are the discouraging results:
But I’m still using the damn thing.
Because the pros of the new Oura ring, though smaller than I’d hoped, still outweigh the cons. In this Oura ring review, I’ll explain why.
Oura Ring Review Outline
What Is the Oura Ring
The new Oura ring is a regular-sized (maybe a bit thicker than most) ring you can get in one of three colors (or with a diamond on it if you absolutely love burning cash for inane reasons).
Inside the ring are a bunch of fancy sensors that collect biometric data. The ring periodically sends this data to your phone, which relays it over to the cloud to make various calculations related to your sleep, activity, and readiness.
What Oura Measures
- Blood pulse volume in your finger, from which it calculates your respiratory rate, heart rate, and heart rate variability.
- Body temperature.
- Movement of the hand that’s wearing the ring.
- Time of day.
What It Infers From Those Measurements
- Sleep quality: Calculated based on what time you’re lying in bed, for how long, how much you move around in bed, and how your breathing, temperature, and heart rate measurements vary during that time. It also attempts to break that sleep into the different stages: light, REM, and deep sleep.
- Activity: Calculated based on periodic (not continuous) monitoring of your heart rate and how much you move your hand.
- Readiness: Calculated based on trends in your resting heart rate, HRV, respiratory rate, and body temperature.
What’s on the App
Why Sleep Is so Freaking Important
Before continuing with my Oura ring review, I want to emphasize why sleep is so important.
Actually, I’ll let this guy do it for me:
That’s Dr. Matt Walker. He’s a sleep scientist who wrote a book, Why We Sleep, that scared the crap into making me want to sleep better.
Here’s why he says we should care A LOT about sleep:
“It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.”Dr. Walker
But we people are dumbasses.
Instead of simply sleeping more and better to get these benefits we pay thousands of dollars for doctors, supplements, and doodads to “hack” the system.
Now back to the Oura ring review.
The Pros and Cons of the Oura Ring
✓ It’s a Ring
I much rather wear a ring than a tight bracelet or a watch, especially one as inconspicuous as the Oura.
✗ It’s a Ring
I’d much, much rather not wear anything at all and I can’t wear the ring when I’m playing basketball, lifting heavy barbells, or doing chin-ups.
Also, people ask me if I’m married when I wear it.
So I stopped wearing my Oura ring during the day, mostly for the following reason:
✗ Useless Activity Tracking
The Oura ring only tracks activity through its built-in accelerometer, so I get barely any credit for weight training and stationary exercise like yoga.
It also doesn’t properly track the high-intensity interval training I do because it only takes periodic heart-rate measurements during the day.
The only things the Oura ring is useful for during the waking hours are:
- Counting steps
- Reminders via the app to move every once in a while
- The Moment function
None of those were good enough reasons for me to keep wearing my ring all day, so now I only wear it at night.
All it has to show for my rough treatment are quite a few superficial scuffs and scratches, but they just give the ring character.
✓ Low Maintenance
I only have to charge my Oura ring once a week or so and I can go weeks without having to sync it with my phone.
✓ Eye-Opening Data
Before I got my Oura ring, I assumed I was a good sleeper. I’d fall asleep immediately, stay asleep through the night, then wake up about 7-8 hours later.
I thought wrong.
The Oura ring made me aware that while I was having a good quantity of sleep, my sleep quality wasn’t ideal.
My heart rate chart was almost always a downward sloped line instead of an optimal bowl-shape, my HRV was the opposite, and I rarely got as much deep and REM sleep as I should.
This data woke me out of my complacency and got me experimenting with all sorts of things like light, temperature, eating schedule, sleep schedule, screen time, to improve my sleep habits.
✗ Too Much Data, Not Enough Recommendations
The Oura has all the data necessary to be able to give me helpful, actionable tips.
For example, it could do a simple regression to see how much my inactivity affects my sleep and advise me accordingly.
But it doesn’t.
Aside from telling me whether or not my heart rate and sleep quality from the night before indicates I should “Up the activity” or “Take it easy”, it doesn’t do anything to help me figure out how to improve my sleep.
I’ve had to take matters into my own hands, do my own analyses, and even maintain my own spreadsheet (in which I take note of stuff like eating time, food quantity, alcohol and caffeine consumption) to try to crack the code to better sleep.
I wish I didn’t have to and that the Oura ring would make easier.
✗ Unreliable Data
Three months ago, I lost my Our ring and replaced it with another 35 days later. I got the same same size and same model…
…But different results:
My average deep sleep scores with my new ring have jumped up by 37% and my REM scores have decreased by 30%.
I didn’t make any changes that I know of to my sleeping habits, so I suspect that somehow a difference between the rings is causing these different scores.
This indicates that the deep sleep and REM scores are completely unreliable.
But at least they seem to be consistently unreliable. As long as I can roughly rely on their progression, not the absolute numbers, the scores are useful.
✗ It Punishes Me For Reading in Bed
When I read in bed, the Oura ring defaults to assuming I’m having a hard time falling asleep and gives me low latency and sleep efficiency scores, two of the seven measures that make up the overall sleep score.
✓ It’s Improving
Many other Oura ring wearers reported the same issue with reading in bed, so the Oura team fixed it.
It’s not the most glamorous fix—now I can manually adjust my latency to report the time I was reading—but it’s a lot better than before.
The team’s made a couple of similar improvements, and I am confident there will be more to come.
✓ Little Daily Dopamine Hits
Every morning I eagerly check my sleep score from the night before to see how I did—specifically focusing on my deep sleep and whether my heart rate graph was in the desired U-shape.
The feeling of anticipation I get from doing so is similar to the one I get when I open Instagram to see if I got any new likes, follows, or comments—just a heck of a lot healthier (I think…).
✗ It Takes a While
I naively hoped the Oura Ring would immediately help me identify things I’ve been doing wrong and fix them so I could sleep like a baby and become superhuman.
It takes weeks, even months, until you can start to spot useful trends.
Clearly there isn’t anything the Oura team can do anything about this, but it is something you should keep in mind before you buy one for yourself in order to have the right expectations.
✓ Long-Term Health Tracking
The Oura ring keeps me very aware of trends in my key health markers, like HRV and resting heart rate. This motivates me to stay healthy.
For example, for my first four months with the Oura ring, I was encouraged and motivated by my steadily decreasing resting heart rate and increasing average HRV. These were signs my exercise and diet choices were paying off.
But then on my fifth month, Kim and I went on a hectic road trip in South Africa.
For two weeks, we exercised less, ate worse, and drank more than normal and my HR and HRV gains completely vanished (…but, interestingly enough, my sleep scores improved).
Once our trip was over and life stabilized, I was more motivated than ever to turn things back around—and track my progress—thanks to the continuous long-term health trends from my Oura ring.
✗ It Costs $299
The $299 price is for the silver one (like I have) or the black.
It’s $399 if you choose the “stealth,” and $999 if you want a diamond on it.
✗ Uncertain Delivery
If you’re in a rush to get a new Oura ring, be sure to ask how long it will take before ordering.
As of May 2019, a couple of commenters have shared that they got their rings promptly after ordering, but prior to that many complained that they had to wait three months or more.
✓ The Promising New Moment Function
At the end of May 2019, Oura introduced a function (iOS only for now) I’d been looking forward to ever since I first got on the waiting list for my Oura ring 2 in 2017:
The ability to turn on the heart rate and HRV tracking during the day.
They call it “Moment.”
For 1 to 60 minutes, I can now try to relax my way to a lower heart rate and higher HRV and see how I do.
So far, I suck at it.
My HRV generally decreases and my HR increases during my “Moments,” which is the opposite of what I want.
But the fact that my Oura ring has motivated me to even try to relax at all is already a plus. I’m confident it’s a matter of time and tweaking with my relaxation routine before I eventually figure out how to do it effectively.
Oura Ring vs Alternatives
✧ Oura vs. Motiv Ring
The Motiv Ring is Oura’s closest competitor.
On the outside they look about the same, but functionally they’re not. Here are the biggest differences:
Motiv Ring Advantages
- $100 cheaper ($199 vs $299)
- Better activity tracking: When you work out, it tracks your activity more continuously than the Oura Ring.
Oura Ring Advantages
- Way better sleep tracking. Oura specializes in tracking your sleep by tracking sleep phases (deep, REM, light). The Motiv only tracks “restful” and “restless.”
- Longer battery life (6-7 days for Oura vs 3 days for Motiv)
- More measures. It measures HRV, body temperature, and respiratory rate. The Motiv doesn’t.
Oura vs. Motiv Conclusion
Even if the Motiv ring only cost $20 instead of $200, I’d still get the Oura ring because it’s far and away the better tool for tracking my sleep, which is priority number one for me.
✧ Oura vs. Fitbit
Comparing the Oura Ring versus the Fitbit is like comparing slippers to running shoes.
Like slippers, the Oura Ring is designed for resting. And like running shoes, the Fitbit is designed for activity.
You can use either for the other purpose, but that’s getting away from what they’re designed for.
Either get both for the best performance or pick whichever functionality is more important to you—tracking sleep or tracking rest—and purchase accordingly.
✧ Oura vs. Sleep Cycle App
For over seven years before I got my new Oura ring, I relied on my phone’s Sleep Cycle app to measure my sleep.
Even after I got my ring, I continued to use it for its alarm. This allowed me to compare the sleep scores between the two.
Here’s the comparison:
If the Sleep Cycle app were any good, the dots on this chart would roughly follow a diagonal, upwards-sloped line.
That means the Sleep Cycle app is pretty much useless for sleep tracking.
Final Verdict on the Oura Ring
To decide whether or not something was a good buy, I ask myself one question:
If I lose it, would I get another of the exact same or would I shop around for something else?
For the Oura ring, the answer is I’d get it again.
Not just in theory, either.
I actually lost my ring somewhere in the Namibian desert and as soon as I got home I got a new one.
That’s because, while the Oura ring hasn’t fully lived up to my expectations, it has made me more focused on and conscious of my sleep quality and long term health markers.
And even though my sleep scores haven’t improved in the months I’ve had it, A) there’s a chance my sleep would’ve got worse if not for the Oura ring and B) I’m optimistic that I’m getting closer to finding the perfect sleep routine with its help.
Compared to the benefits, the cost is minimal. Just like how it’s worth spending more on a good mattress, the same applies for the Oura ring sleep tracker.
If you’re looking for a magic pill, don’t bother getting an Oura ring.
The data might entertain you for a while, but if you do nothing about it you’ll soon get bored, ditch it, and be $300 poorer and no better off.
But if you’re willing to be proactive about improving your health—meaning you’re willing to put some conscious effort into figuring out and fixing what’s hurting your sleep—the Oura ring is the best tool out there.
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