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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. Five months later, despite putting serious thought and effort into sleeping better, these are the discouraging results:
So yeah, I’ve been wearing an annoying ring on my finger for five months and have seemingly nothing to show for it.
But I’m still wearing 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 like a baby.
“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, because 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 of the Oura Ring
Before I got my Oura ring, I thought 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 I had a big problem. I was missing out on brain-cleaning, info-processing, growth-hormone-inducing deep sleep.
Unfortunately, as I’ll explain in the Cons below, the ring hasn’t helped me solve this problem but, as they say, “Awareness is the first step towards change.”
✓ 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.
My Oura ring has held up admirably to all the punishment I put it through, including rock workouts, calisthenic training, and general negligence.
The poor treatment I’ve given my ring has earned it a few superficial scuffs and scratches, but that just gives the ring character.
✓ It Blows Phone Sleep Tracking Apps Out of the Water
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. They don’t. That means the Sleep Cycle app was pretty much useless for sleep tracking.
✓ It’s Improving
The Oura ring is smart enough to know I’m not sleeping when I lie awake in bed but it’s not smart enough to know whether I’m awake because I’m reading or because I’m unable to fall asleep. It assumes the latter by default, which penalizes my sleep score when I read in bed. This inaccuracy annoyed and frustrated me.
So they fixed it.
It’s not the most glamorous fix—now I can manually adjust my sleep to report the time I was reading—but it’s a lot better than before.
There have been a couple similar improvements, and I am confident there will be more to come. (Hopefully to the activity tracking in particular.)
✓ Long-Term Heath Tracking
The Oura ring keeps me very aware of trends in my key health markers, like HRV and resting heart rate. This in turn motivates me to stay healthy.
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 gains completely vanished (… but at least my sleep improved!).
Now that our trip’s over and life has stabilized, and thanks to the continuous long-term health trends the Oura ring provides me, I’m more motivated than ever to turn things back around.
✓ Little 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’s a Ring
I much rather wear a ring than a tight bracelet or a watch, especially one as inconspicuous as the Oura.
Cons of the Oura Ring
✗ Lots of Data, Little Results
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.
✗ Useless for 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 activity tracking is so useless that I’ve considered not wearing the ring at all during the day. The only thing that stops me is I’m worried I’ll forget to put it on at night.
✗ It Punishes Me For Reading in Bed
When I read in bed, the 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. As I wrote in the Pros, at least now I can manually adjust it, but I’d prefer not to have to do so.
✗ Untapped Potential
The Oura ring sells itself short by only working during sleep time.
I’d get way more out of it if I could put all its powers to use during specific occasions during the day—like when meditating, napping, doing exercise, and taking saunas and cold baths.
✗ It’s Slow
I was hoping the Oura Ring would immediately help me identify things I’ve been doing wrong and help me fix them so I could sleep like a baby and become superhuman.
It didn’t. It takes weeks, even months, until you can start to spot useful trends.
Clearly this 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.
✗ 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.
✗ Slow Delivery
In my case, I pre-ordered back in December 2017, so I expected to wait a while for my ring. And did I ever wait. It took 7 months.
Unfortunately, according to online reports they’re still slow to deliver.
A couple of helpful readers have confirmed this in the comments. They ordered in late 2018 and waited just over three months before their rings arrived in early 2019.
✗ It’s a Ring
I’d much, much prefer not to have to wear anything at all and I can’t wear it if I’m playing basketball or lifting heavy barbells.
Also, people now ask me if I’m married.
Oura Ring vs Motiv Ring
The Motiv Ring is Oura’s main competitor.
On the outside they look about the same, but functionally they’re not. Here are the biggest differences:
Motiv Ring Advantages
- It’s $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 costed $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.
Final Verdict on the Oura Ring
I decide whether something was a good buy or not by asking myself one question:
If I lose it, will I immediately buy another of the exact same or would I shop around for something else?
My answer to this question for the Oura ring is…
I’d immediately buy another one if I lost mine.
My Oura ring hasn’t fully lived up to my expectations, but it has made me more focused on and conscious of my sleep quality. 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 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 a must.