The Honor Band 5 is a cheap answer to the Apple Watch’s lack of sleep tracking

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The Apple Watch doesn’t track your sleep without the use of a third-party app, which means wearing it all night, and finding another time to charge it up. Yes, it’s workable, but it’s not ideal, and the apps vary in quality and price. What’s the answer for the keen sleeper who wants to watch over their nightly activities in the same way the Apple Watch does most other aspects of health and fitness?

In another article on how to track sleep on the Apple Watch, I suggested buying a cheap fitness tracking band which also has sleep monitoring as an alternative. To assess whether this was really a good suggestion, I’ve been wearing the Honor Band 5 for a few weeks to find out.

The Honor Band 5 costs 30 British pounds, which converts over to about $38, and that’s less than an official second strap for your new Apple Watch. It’s an easy buying decision, even if you have just splashed out. It has a colorful, bright 0.95-inch AMOLED screen covered in a curved piece of glass, a heart rate tracker, blood oxygen (Sp02) level tracking, plenty of exercise plans including swimming, and notification alerts from your phone. It also has Huawei’s TruSleep technology, which is what we’re most interested in here.

TruSleep uses the heart rate sensor, the 3-axis accelerometer, and some clever data analysis while you sleep to keep watch over the four different stages — deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep, and waking. It collects this data and presents it in the Huawei Health app which is available for Android and iOS phones. During this test, I have used Huawei Health app and the Honor Band 5 connected to various different Android phones. Set up is easy, and takes just a few moments in the app.

Sleep is (not) for the weak

The Honor Band 5 weighs only 24 grams and the strap is made from soft silicone. It has a watch-style clasp which can be a pain to do up, but once it’s on the Honor Band 5 is very comfortable to wear. It never interfered with my sleep, became too hot, or got caught on the sheets during the night. I didn’t notice it was there, which is more than can be said about wearing a watch while you sleep.

There’s no need to tell the Honor Band 5 you’re going to bed, it knows when you do, and it’s very accurate. Gone are the days of a sleep tracker getting confused about whether you’re getting ready to sleep or not. It’s the same in the morning too. Even lazing in bed, or taking the band off to shower didn’t confuse it into thinking I’d gone back to sleep. This accuracy is important, as without it all the data collected will be off.

Plenty of data

Sleep with the Honor Band 5 on and in the morning you get a break down of how long you spent sleeping in each phase, on average, and it assigns a Sleep Score. The goal is to increase your Sleep Score, and to help do this the Health app then breaks each of your sleep phases down into more detailed sections, gives a percentage score, and tells you whether this is normal or needs improvement. For example, on a night I slept for seven hours, 50 minutes, an hour and 25 minutes of that was in REM sleep, or 21%. TruSleep considers this normal, but my average of one hours and 56 minutes in deep sleep was low. Attractive graphs break this down in an easy-to-understand way.

TruSleep then assigns a Sleep Score, and provides an insight into how you can improve. In this case, it said going to bed earlier would help me get more deep sleep, as this happens earlier in the night. Explore further and the app tells you why deep sleep — and all the other sleep stages — are important. More deep sleep means better quality sleep, and stabilizes mood and restores energy for the next day.

Interesting stuff, but TruSleep isn’t done. Keep wearing the Honor Band 5 and the software will provide more advice as it collects more data. After a week of wearing it, the Honor Band 5 gave an overall Sleep Score for the week, and collated data to show where improvements could be found. For me, my deep sleep phases were consistently low, and were the main area where I could get better sleep. Because the app gives advice on how to improve, this data was elevated beyond just being numbers to something I could actually work with.

The Honor Band 5 and TruSleep

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What about the band itself? The small screen is bright enough to be seen during the day, and provided you set it up correctly it does not illuminate overnight and disturb your sleep. However, the heart rate monitor did usually light up, despite a feature that should have stopped it doing so, but I didn’t find it woke me up. It’s also only noticeable if you wear the band loosely on your wrist.

The battery is supposed to last seven days before needing a recharge with TruSleep enabled along with the heart rate sensor too. I found this was slightly optimistic, and five to six days was about right. The reason is that with 15% remaining the Honor Band 5 ran out of power overnight, so it’s worth making sure it’s recharged before getting below 20% power. Recharging is completed using a proprietary charging block that clips on to the underside of the band, and then connects to a Micro USB cable. A short cable is included in the box if you don’t have one already. It takes about 90 minutes to fully recharge.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The TruSleep technology is not exclusive to the Honor Band 5. The Huawei technology can be found on other wearables from Huawei and Honor too, giving you plenty of choice. The Huawei Watch GT 2 has it, as does the older Honor Band 4, Huawei’s Band 4, and Band 3 Pro too. Beware of some older versions of these devices, as they may not use the latest TruSleep 2.0 software and results may differ from my experience here.

You can buy the Honor Band 5 from various retailers in the U.K. for 30 British pounds, or about $38; but if you’re in the U.S. you’ll have to import one or use a third-party seller on amazon.com. It’s a much lower-risk import buy than a smartphone though, due to the low price.

Worth wearing?

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If you want deep, informative, and helpful advice on not only your nightly sleep patterns but also how to improve the quality of your sleep, the Honor Band 5 is recommended and worth buying. It’s small and light enough not to be annoying, cheap enough that it’s a purchase you don’t have to consider for too long, and you don’t have to buy into a particular ecosystem to use it either.

What’s more, if you don’t want to wear it during the day and take advantage of its fitness tracking — which is also great — you don’t have to. Just put it on when you get home, and wear it overnight. Keep your Apple Watch, other smartwatch, or traditional watch for the daytime and the evening, and grab an Honor Band 5 for sleep tracking duties.