The Oura ring is a biometric device that tracks sleep quality and other health data such as heart rate variability. The company claims their device can “detect when you’re tired, unwell or under stress” based on biometric signals.
In this article we’ll review the published medical research on Oura ring to determine whether it’s likely to be effective, and explain whether we recommend it or not.
Medical Research Review
The Oura ring has been studied in various clinical trials. For consumers considering purchasing an expensive medical device, it makes sense to understand the research backing it to make an informed purchase decision.
A 2019 trial published in the Behavioral Sleep Medicine journal compared the effectiveness of the Oura ring against polysomnography, which is the medical standard for diagnosing sleep disorders. When most patients undergo a “sleep study”, the doctors are using polysomnography to measure sleep quality.
This was a well-designed study in our opinion, and the Oura ring performed decently: 96% ability to detect sleep compared to polysomnography, 48% ability to detect wakefulness, 65% agreement in detecting “light sleep”, 51% agreement in detecting “deep sleep”, and 61% agreement in detecting REM sleep.
One interesting finding from the study was that Oura ring data discrepancies were greater when the device was worn on the ring finger, so users may want to consider wearing it on other fingers if they purchase the device.
Overall, the study demonstrates that Oura ring provides some valuable data but is nowhere near as accurate as polysomnography for measuring sleep quality.
A more recent medical review of the Oura ring shows improved accuracy, suggesting that newer models like the Oura Ring Generation 3 may be superior to older models (unsurprisingly).
Researchers in this review proved that by combining various sets of biometric data from the device, sleep parameters were able to be tracked more accurately. For example, accuracy of detecting REM sleep was 90.87% when combining accelerometer, temperature, heart rate variability and circadian features data. This is a significant improvement on the 61% agreement in detecting REM sleep from the first study.
Another medical trial analyzed the accuracy of nocturnal heart rate and heart rate variability data from subjects using the Oura ring, and found its reporting to be highly accurate. The researchers suggested that the device could be useful for long-term patient management because it’s much more convenient than traditional sleep study devices.
Overall we find that the Oura ring is backed by high-quality clinical data, and appears to be improving in accuracy over time, as one would expect from a hardware device. This product has some of the most comprehensive and well-designed research studies proving its efficacy compared with other health products we’ve reviewed.
The Oura ring seems like a good preventative measure, but we wouldn’t recommend it to diagnose any health problems or conditions. The current state of the technology makes it useful for providing data to doctors that may warrant a more formal examination and help detect health conditions early.
For example, a user may find out that they have sleep disturbances through the night based on their Oura ring data. If they share this information with their doctor, they can get a formal sleep test which could potentially diagnose their issue earlier than it would have been discovered otherwise.
One downside of the Oura ring is that it’s relatively expensive (Generation 3 starts at $299), and unlike medically-necessary tests like sleep studies, is almost never covered by insurance.
We think the Oura ring is a great option for consumers with discretionary income who want to optimize their sleep, but we don’t believe it’s a necessary purchase for any individual consumer.