A thing you should know about me before you read this review of the Oura Ring, a wearable sleep and health tracker, is that I like data. I was not always like this — once upon a time I wore a regular watch and somehow got through my day without knowing my step count or if my workout had taken me out of zone 2 for any meaningful length of time. But then I got a fitness tracker (an Apple watch, if you’re curious) and I unlocked my truest form: A person who wants to know.
I’m going to elaborate on my appetite for — and understanding of — personal data, because I think it is the crux of whether a person would find a health tracker like the Oura to be useful, but first let me summarize what I have found most useful about the Oura Ring:
- It has helped me see and understand my sleep patterns, which has prompted me to work harder at getting better sleep. Aside from exercise and eating well, this is possibly the most important thing I can do for my health and well-being.
- It has helped me to measure my energy levels in a more concrete way than just “I feel blah” or “watch out world, I’m getting sh*t done today.”
- I like that the Oura Ring isn’t hounding me with reminders. I can absorb the information when I want to by opening the app but I’m not being constantly pinged by notifications. It also adapts its recommendations to me. For example, it has figured out my chronotype (my ideal sleep/wake hours) and tailored its gentle suggestions to that.
- The Oura is also the only health tracker I’ve ever used that regularly suggests I take it easy and find ways to wind down. When I was going through a rough sleep patch this summer, my Oura app suggested I turn on Rest Mode, in which the tracker does not measure activity and just focuses on sleep and recovery metrics. Yes please.
- I have not worn the Oura Ring through a cold and flu season yet, but I can already see how it will help me track the onset of symptoms and my recovery from various viruses. When I embrace my Man Cold this winter, it will be a decision backed by the numbers.
- Price: The ring ranges from $299 to $549, depending on which finish you choose. Monthly membership, which you need to access all your data, is $5.99 a month.
- Size: The ring is 7.9mm long, 2.5 mm thick, and weighs 4-6 grams. It feels very light on, though as rings go, it’s on the chunky side. It comes in sizes 6 to 13, and when you order the ring, you first receive a sizing kit and very specific instructions on how to choose the size that’s right for you. The sensors only work properly if it fits correctly.
- Colors: The ring is made of titanium but comes in a range of finishes from black and silver to gold and rose gold.
- Battery life: It lasts up to seven days, though I usually charge my ring every five days.
What is the Oura Ring & what does it track?
This metal ring, which looks like a chunky, minimalist piece of jewelry, is ideally worn on your index figure, according to the brand’s sizing instructions, because that’s where it gets the best readings. (I wear mine on my third finger and haven’t had any problems.) The ring contains several sensors on the inside that measure your heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate (and blood oxygen saturation), and movement. It connects via Bluetooth to the Oura app on your phone, which is organized into three basic sections: Readiness, Sleep, and Activity. You can look through a variety of different graphs that will show you data about the last 24 hours and how that compares to your stats over time.
The Activity screen will show you information about your daily movement (steps, calories burned, etc.). The Readiness tab is a distillation of your sleep and activity levels, as well as a few other factors, including your resting heart rate, body temperature, and Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Low HRV can be a sign of serious health problems, or just that you are stressed or recovering from something. It can also be a physical measure of emotional distress, which I have found fascinating.
The Oura’s best feature (according to me and also a casual perusal of the message boards) is its ability to track sleep. When you scroll to the Sleep section of the app, you’ll see your total sleep, time in bed, resting heart rate, and a “sleep score,” which is based on several different factors and meant to measure how restorative your sleep was. I like to look at the graph that shows me how much light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep I got in the night. The goal is a mix of all of them. When something is out of whack (I drink a little bit too much or have a stressful day), I notice that I get less deep sleep.
Will the Oura help me get more sleep?
The Oura Ring has helped me to focus on sleep, and to think and plan for it the way I do exercise and food. It cannot help you get better sleep if what’s interrupting or limiting your rest is a screaming infant, a restless toddler, or some other external disruptor. But almost anything else I think the Oura Ring can help with is as a tool you can use to test solutions. Want to know what bedtime will help you fall asleep fastest? You can see that over time. Does a screen disrupt your ability to nod off? Do some experiments with putting away your phone (I know, I know) and see what you learn. Ditto the effects of alcohol, food, and other things that affect your restfulness.
How easy is the Oura Ring to use?
In some ways, the Oura Ring is the easiest health tracker out there: all you have to do is wear it. You don’t have to log anything into an app or check goals. It’s passive data gathering at its finest.
The Oura Ring’s battery life is part of its ease of use. Unlike my watch, my Oura Ring stays charged for nearly a week, which means I don’t have to think about it often. When I notice the indicator turn red in the app, I just leave it on the cradle for a few hours and then pop it back on.
You do have to sync the ring to the app regularly in order to see your new data (and if you don’t do that, you can apparently lose information). You simply open the app and hold your ring close to the phone until it updates; this typically takes less than a minute. I do it every morning while I’m brushing my teeth.
You do have to learn how to navigate the app and understand what it’s showing you, which is an ongoing project and can be overwhelming. I’ve been wearing the Oura Ring since June and it took me about a month to really figure it out. They also keep introducing new features (their most recent slate are called Daytime Stress, Reflections, and Resilience). The Oura website has lots of how-tos and blog posts, which can help you learn how to navigate these features if they interest you.
What are Oura’s other features?
If you and your partner are both personal data collectors, Oura’s Circles feature allows you to share your data with another Oura wearer, so if you and your partner want to form a Circle — and keep an eye on each other’s sleep and readiness scores — that’s possible.
Another feature that the Oura Ring offers is cycle tracking. (Disclaimer: please do not read any of this and think you no longer need birth control or a doctor if you’re wearing a health tracker.) Menstruating people who wear it for three months while logging their period when prompted will then get predictions about the start of their next period. The ring also takes frequent, accurate measurements of your body temperature, and you could closely monitor those for clues about when you are ovulating — and according to Oura, perhaps see early indications that you are pregnant. (You can read more about that here.)
How the Oura Ring could help in cold & flu season
I’ll start this section with a giant caveat: The Oura Ring (or any health tracker) is not a replacement for the care of a doctor or health professional and if you feel something is wrong with one of the systems the Oura Ring monitors (primarily your heart and lungs), you should always listen to those instincts and see a professional, regardless of what your ring says.
That out of the way, I do think the Oura Ring will be a useful tool for figuring out if I am sick and tracking my recovery from illness. I haven’t yet put this to the test, but many users report seeing their temperature rise before they notice symptoms, and watching how long it takes their resting heart rates to return to normal after a bout with a virus. Ever wonder if that tired and slightly run-down feeling is just the product of being tired (and slightly run down) or if it’s a sign that you’re getting sick? The metrics tracked by your ring could help you answer that question. And the ring can also provide you with proof that recovery isn’t just a question of being fever free and less sniffly. It might take your body weeks to return to its baseline and knowing that can help you make plans to conserve your energy and physical resources.
This summer I made changes to a medication I was taking and I felt… off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I could see the effects in my app. My sleep was noticeably disrupted and my heart rate took a while to return to its baseline. I felt better having definitive proof that what was happening wasn’t all “in my head.”
Pros & Cons of the Oura Ring:
A better way to frame this, I think, is who is this gadget good for and who might not find it useful.
Who is this for:
- Any health-obsessed types who might want to see their efforts at improving their well-being translated into numbers and plotted on graphs.
- Anyone who is really struggling with how to relax, decompress, and sleep more. Telling someone they need to reduce their stress levels is one of the vaguest pieces of health advice out there. The Oura can make that effort concrete by helping you figure out what encourages or hinders you from getting better sleep, lowers your resting heart rate, etc.
- Anyone who likes a new toy and is excited to play with a new app. You know who you are.
- Anyone who has found other health trackers, like watches, too disruptive with constant notifications and exhortations to move, stand, close this, and finish that.
Who this is not for:
- Anyone triggered by tracking. If you feel like a failure or become anxious when you are asked to quantify how much you have moved your body, eaten, slept, or whether you’ve successfully relaxed, then health trackers may not be for you. There are lots of other ways to build healthy habits or just take care fo yourself.
- Someone looking specifically for an exercise tracker. The Oura is not particularly great at differentiating between different forms of exercise and you can’t see your metrics (heart rate, distance, etc.) in real time. It’s also hard to wear a ring while you’re gripping and lifting weights. Lots of athletes use the Oura in addition to another fitness tracker.
- The Oura is not a replacement for mental health care, friendship, connection, and self-compassion. These are your most important tools in lowering your stress levels and living a more balanced life, and ultimately improving or maintaining your health. I feel silly writing that but it’s important to say.
The final verdict: Is the Oura Ring worth it in 2023?
I think this question is another version of “what are you actually getting from this thing?” And my answer to that is to return to the topic of personal data.
I like keeping track of things — I tend to my calendar with great care, I log the books I’ve read on Goodreads, I have a note in my phone about when my last haircut was and the dates of all my past mammograms. I love knowing my daily step count, seeing the little spikes on the graph that mean I’ve exercised that day. So when Oura offered to send me a ring to try, I knew I wanted to try it. Now I can see how many hours of sleep I got last night, which portion of the night I spent in REM and deep sleep, when my heart rate dipped to its lowest point, and whether my body temperature is holding steady at “normal.”
As with the fitness data my watch gathers, I am not doing anything in particular with this information. I’m not training for a race or taking part in any medical studies of whether color coding your Google Cal leads to a measurable sense of well-being. All this data gathering might be the most boring form of narcissism ever invented, but it has helped me considerably to think about how I feel — and make small, meaningful changes — in the present moment. Spending a few minutes every day looking at the graphs and charts on my phone keeps me rooted in what I can do for myself now.
As an adult, we don’t get much praise for doing the basic work of keeping ourselves alive — no badges for making lunch yet again or wiping down that one spot on the counter that is always filthy. But with the Oura, each little bar on the graph feels like a gold star and a high five, a (thankfully) wordless “you’re doing great sweetie.” I feel noticed and encouraged, and for me, that’s very effective motivation.
The Oura Ring is a health tracker disguised as a piece of jewelry that can help you monitor how much sleep you are getting, see what things (foods, drinks, activities) affect your sleep, and keep an eye on your overall activity and recovery levels. It’s ideal for the health nut or data enthusiast who already has too many pairs of running shoes and checks their Garmin or Apple Watch compulsively.
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