I've never worn any type of smart jewelry, so the Bellabeat Leaf ($150) was unchartered territory. I first discovered the Leaf on Pinterest and didn't even know it was something functional — I thought it was a new piece of jewelry. When Bellabeat offered me the chance to try it out, I jumped on it, not knowing what to expect.
The Leaf is a pendant that tracks your sleep cycles, activity, breathing, and monthly cycles. You can wear it as a bracelet, necklace, or clip.
My first few days with the tracker were rough.
The instruction manual just tells you how to set the Leaf up, warns you not to get it wet, and directs you to download the app. It took me 15 minutes just to figure out how to put it on. After a few days of not knowing why there was no data showing up in the app, I discovered that you have to sync the Leaf yourself.
There's a "sync" button (circled in green) in the right corner of the screen. All the gathered information since the last sync is uploaded to the app so you can see it. You can sync as often as you'd like.
The Leaf doesn't sync by itself, so you have to do it manually each time.
My favorite feature is the sleep tracker. I sync the Leaf every morning, as soon as I wake up, to assess the quality of my sleep.
The Leaf estimates what time you fell asleep and can pretty accurately tell what time you wake up.
When you sync, it gives you the option to adjust what time you fell asleep. You also need to designate where you wore the Leaf (it recommends that you clip it onto your shirt).
It tracks how well you sleep based on how much you move. My sleep is determined "restless" most nights, but it also has also been "calm" if I have longer periods of deep sleep, or "disturbed" when the Leaf recognizes that I woke up in the middle of the night.
But, OK, it's probably not telling you everything about your sleep.
I spoke to Dr. Lawrence Epstein, a doctor of sleep medicine and program director at Harvard Medical School to see if the Leaf really was tracking sleep accurately. After explaining how the tracker seems to work, he explained there are two main cycles of sleep, REM and non-REM. REM is when we are dreaming and there is nearly no movement and a more erratic heart rate. Non-REM is deep sleep, where there is slight movement but a low and even heart rate.
He believes that the Leaf tracks based on the typical movement patterns of the two stages, though it's hard to tell without knowing their algorithm. Don't fret too much about what any sleep tracker is telling you. Epstein says to concentrate on one thing: "I always tell people to focus on getting a good amount of sleep. If you're sleeping enough, the stages of sleep will happen naturally."
Another thing: It doesn't seem to count naps.
And since I usually rack up a good amount of naps on my two-hour commute, I was really hoping it would factor that in. But apparently I'm sleeping too lightly for it to register on the app, and you can't manually enter multiple sleep periods in a day.
It tracks your activity levels throughout the day, including how many steps you take.
The Leaf also tracks your activity during the day, including how many steps you take, how far you've walked, and how many calories you've burned. You manually enter your height and weight during the setup so that it can estimate how many calories you burn.
After you sync, you can label certain periods of exercise with specific activities (like yoga or sex 😉), or just let it track your movements throughout the day. It distinguishes regular, smaller movement from exercise (prolonged activity for five or more minutes). I like that it emphasizes active time instead of calories, because I don't have time to rigorously work out every day, but I can make time to move.
I kept my Leaf on my wrist most of the time because I wanted to track my steps on my walk to work, and figured that it would detect how much my arm swings. But I discovered that no matter where I place it, the Leaf still tracks my steps accurately.
There's also an inactivity alert, which prompts the Leaf to vibrate if you're inactive for longer than you'd like to be.
If you're watching a Friends marathon, you'll get a nice little reminder to walk... to the fridge for more snacks.
I think this feature is *awesome* for anyone with a desk job, just a periodic reminder to get up and mosey around.
The Leaf encourages you to take 10 minutes per day to focus on your breathing.
Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises...not typically my thing. But the Leaf has a section for breathing exercises where you clip the pendant to the hem of your pants and listen to guided breathing tracks, ranging from beginner to advanced. There's even one for menstrual discomfort.
I think these audio meditation sessions are awesome, especially for people with stress or anxiety. Even just five minutes, dedicated to focusing on your breathing, helps.
The app has a built-in period tracker. You can also turn your Leaf into a birth control reminder.
First, you manually enter in when your last period was and how long your cycle is. Then the app tells you how many days until your next period, and when you're ovulating. It's pretty cool if you're not on birth control, so your period doesn't surprise you, or if you're trying to get pregnant so you can see which days you're ovulating.
I also have the pill reminder set, so every day at the same time, the Leaf vibrates and tells me to take my pill, which is great because I forget almost every day.
You can set the Leaf to have wake-up alarms, too. There is a different set of vibrations for alarms and, unfortunately, they have never successfully woken me up because it's just a silent buzz. It is, however, a nice little reminder that "hey, you're still watching Daily Show reruns instead of sleeping and now it's time to get up for work."
The battery life lasts about six months, which, as far as trackers and smart jewelry go, is impressive.
It comes with a little screwdriver so you can change the battery (a pretty standard CR2032 cell that you can get on Amazon) easily when that time does come. But after a week of constant use and frequent syncing, it's still at 100% (which you can find in the settings).
Overall, I would absolutely recommend this product.
It's so much more than a fitness tracker. It's pretty, tracks menstrual cycles, and monitors levels of activity. But what really caught me is the sleep tracker, which I haven't seen before. I love the idea of finding how I can get my best night's sleep. I love that it doesn't have to be worn in any particular place — it adapts to whether you decide you'd like to wear it as a necklace or hide it as a clip on your bra. Fitness trackers seem to want to help you lose weight, while the Leaf helps you be healthier all around.
I love that the data sync is easy and you can set your own goals (then change them whenever you'd like). The only thing that I wish was different was the ability to add multiple sleep periods for one day. But overall, the Bellabeat Leaf is definitely everything it is made out to be.