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How Does The Apple Watch Track Sleep

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Unlike Its Competitors Apple Has Decided Not To Overload Users With Data Instead Its Sleep App In Watchos 7 Focuses On Creating A Better Bedtime Ritual

Apple Watch Sleep Tracking: How it actually works // Setup, Tested, Details, Comparisons

When the Apple Watch was new, Apple decided to market it as a fitness device. But its increasingly become a more general personal-wellness device with the addition of features like deep breathing, fall detection, and an electrocardiogram function. And now its able to track one of the most important elements of health: sleep.

The Watchs Sleep app is part of the new watchOS 7, available just in time for the release of the Watch Series 6 today. Much of the sleep functionality is shared between the Watch and an iPhone thats running iOS 14, also available today. I installed the public betas of both systems to test out the sleep functions, and spoke to Apple about the thinking behind its features. Ive never used smartphone-based sleep tracking before, but I found that the Sleep app prompted me to start thinking about sleep in the way I think about hitting my step goals or exercise goals for the day. Rather than overloading me with too much data, Apples simple approach focuses on creating a healthier bedtime routine.

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I Tested Apple Watch Sleep Tracking To Save You Time And Battery Life

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If youre an executive seeking peak performance from the moment you wake up or a parent hoping to create a better nightly routine for your family, youve probably heard about sleep tracking wearables devices that promise to improve your health and productivity by monitoring your sleep. Sleep tracking tech is rapidly becoming ubiquitous: This month, Apple added the feature to tens of millions of Apple Watches in a free watchOS 7 software update, and in August.

But despite years of work by researchers and wearable developers, meaningfully useful sleep tracking remains more a dream than a reality. After trying the feature in prerelease versions of watchOS 7, I spent the past week testing Apples finished sleep tracking app, which meant changing my daily charging routine, wearing my Watch to bed each night, and checking my phone for insights each day. Having gone through that process, Im convinced Ive experienced the kernel of a valuable solution, but just like the very first Apple Watch, it still feels half-baked.

Here are some of the things I discovered during my testing regimen.

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Why Track Your Sleep

Before we take a look at why sleep tracking remains absent from the Apple Watch range, just why would you want to track your sleep in the first place? Put simply, getting good quality sleep is the single most important thing you can do to live a healthy life. And the list of benefits is long from body-wide healing, weight loss and reduced stress to improved memory, reduced inflammation and risk of depression to name a few.

Its All About The Wind Down

How To Track Your Sleep On Apple Watch

Wind Down is the integral benefit of Apple Watch sleep tracking. Ive never known what to do with myself in that weird period between finishing an episode of Ozark and remembering my evening skincare regime.

My iPhone makes that half-hour a little more intentional by initiating a series of pre-selected shortcuts during my Wind Down window. It launches Spotify so I can turn on some relaxing music and opens up my calendar so I can wrap up my day by knowing whats on tap for tomorrow. I added a shortcut for Amazon Alexa so I can make adjustments to my Philips Hue lights before bed, too.

You can completely skip this element of Apple Watch sleep tracking, but I found it plays nicely with the notion of routine Apple seeks to achieve.

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Sleep Coaching And Tracking

Tracking sleep patterns is arguably one of the most important features of a fitness tracker at least for me. Thats because the quality of my sleep plays a major role in how the rest of my day goes, including how hard I can push myself during a workout.

Case in point: the night before writing this article, I didnt sleep well and decided to skip that days workout .

I dont need a sleep tracker to tell me that I had a poor nights sleep. However, I closely monitor how the choices I make during the day impact my sleep quality.

To quantify this, I need a fitness tracker that can accurately detect sleep patterns , including light, deep and REM sleep. As I mentioned in my article about the best sleep trackers, most devices fall short in accurately detecting deep and REM sleep.

When Apple announced that it had made improvements to the sleep tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch Series 6 and watchOS 7, I got super excited and had high hopes especially in light of their acquisition of Beddit, a sleep tracking technology company. Unfortunately, those hopes were crushed when the company revealed the details of the new Apple Watchs sleep tracking abilities.

In fact, Apple didnt introduce any new sleep tracking features at all it just made the previously-available Bedtime feature slightly less useless.

So heres where we stand with sleep tracking/coaching and the Apple Watch Series 6 + watchOS 7:

  • Heart rate sensor
  • Skin conductance sensor
  • Skin temperature sensor

Why I Wear Both Whoop And Apple Watch

Despite my love for WHOOP, I also wear my Apple Watch every day. Plus, I track all of my workouts using the Apple Watch.

Why is that the case, given everything Ive said in this review about Apple Watchs fitness tracking limitations?

The simple answer is that I love my Apple Watch but for different reasons than why I love and use WHOOP.

To me, Apple Watch is an excellent timekeeping device and an extension of my iPhone. I use my Apple Watch to receive notifications, add reminders , manage the smart devices in our home , communicate with friends and family via iMessage or walkie-talkie mode, unlock my iMac Pro , pay at the grocery store and more.

Additionally, the Apple Watch has health features that arent directly related to activity and sleep tracking. For example, my Apple Watch can automatically detect if my heart starts beating irregularly or if I fall. I can also test how rhythmically my heart is beating by doing an ECG right from my wrist, or check my blood oxygenation . While I dont use any of these features on a daily basis, theyre certainly nice to have and prove how advanced Apples technology has become over the years.

In fact, I only realized how much I rely on my Apple Watch when I swapped it out for the Fitbit Sense, which I tested for an in-depth Fitbit vs. WHOOP comparison.

However, I dont anticipate that Apple Watch will match the capabilities of WHOOP anytime soon, so Ill keep using WHOOP for all things fitness, recovery and sleep tracking .

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Apple Watch Vs Whoop: My Final Verdict

Ive been wearing both Apple Watch and WHOOP for several years, and Ill continue doing so because the devices complement each other.

Of course, I would prefer to wear a single device with all of the features Ive outlined in this article. Unfortunately, I dont see such a device emerging any time soon.

Nevertheless, I get excited every fall to see what the new Apple Watch and watchOS will look like, and what steps Apple takes to make the device a more appealing and well-rounded fitness tracker.

While my excitement about the Apple Watch follows an annual cycle, I still get excited every morning when I open the WHOOP app to check my recovery and sleep scores, and to see how my previous days behavior influenced them.

As I was finishing up this article, I started thinking about the question of what I would do if I had to choose between the two. Honestly, I wouldnt know which one to choose because both enrich my life just in entirely different areas.

WHOOP is the better fitness tracker, without question, and I would always choose it over the Apple Watch for this purpose.

At the same time, my Apple Watch lets me pay for groceries without having to swipe my credit card , automatically unlock my iMac and send me notifications so I dont have to pick up my iPhone.

Its a tough call. And thats ultimately why I wear both devices.

What are your thoughts about the Apple Watch vs. WHOOP? Let me know in the comments below!

Discover Important Sleep Trends

How to track your sleep with your Apple Watch Apple Support

Pillows sleep statistics are designed to be easy to understand and rich with information. Quick glanceable summaries inform you about important sleep metrics.

Want to delve deeper? Each metric offers weekly, monthly and yearly views with rich information. Compare your sleep quality and other sleep metrics with your Steps, Weight, Caffeine consumption and many more.

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How To Set Up Sleep Tracking On Apple Watch

1. Ensure your Apple Watch is on watchOS 7 or later and your iPhone is running iOS 14 or later.

2. In the Health app on your iPhone, set up Sleep. You can also go through this process on the Apple Watch itself in the Sleep app.

3. Firstly, choose the duration of sleep – this is a Sleep goal but it isn’t tracked in the iPhone Activity app like your rings . We’ve chosen eight hours.

4. Next, you set when bedtime begins and when you need to wake up. There are actually a bunch of options here, so go through them carefully. Do you need to set it for every day, or just weekdays.

5. You’ll need to set a relaxation time before you go to bed – you can also choose to link this to a Siri Shortcut to do other automation such as turning off a light at home, for example. Wind Down can also be linked to a music playlist, for example.

6. You can decide whether or not to set an alarm and how you want it to sound. Note that this won’t replace your existing alarms on Apple Watch .

Your alarm will sound on your iPhone if you don’t have your Apple Watch on and on your Watch if you do have it on. You can fully configure the alarm sound as well. If your Watch is set to silent, it will just vibrate.

7. You can see your sleep patterns in the Health app on iPhone – view by week or month. You can definitely see the gaps in my sleep here. As you can see, a small child is not conducive to meeting your sleep goal!

Sleep Tracking With Watchos 7

Apple finally added the long-awaited sleep-tracking feature to Apple Watch with WatchOS 7. Its pretty simple to use, too. Just set a bedtime and wake-up time, and the Apple Watch will help you get a good nights rest. We all know sleep hygiene is important, and the Wind Down feature helps to minimize distractions before bedtime, such as switching your iPhone to Do Not Disturb and changing the lock screen to a less-distracting interface. As soon as its your scheduled bedtime, the Apple Watch starts automatically tracking sleep. Make sure your watch is set to a comfortable fit if its too loose on your wrist, it may register too much movement during the night.

Your sleep data tracked through the Apple Watch integrates with the Apple Health app, and through the app, you can see statistics based on how much shut-eye youre getting and receive tips for better sleep. Each morning when you wake up, your Apple Watch provides you with a summary of your nights sleep as well as a battery indicator to remind you to charge your device.

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How Sleep Helps You Attain Sleep Goals

When creating sleep schedules, you can set a sleep goal , the time you want to go to bed and wake up, an alarm tone to wake you up in the morning, and when to turn on sleep mode.

When it’s almost time for bed, the Sleep app will activate Wind Down, a feature that turns on sleep mode. Sleep mode turns off your Apple Watch display and turns on Do Not Disturb, which silences your notifications, in an effort to reduce distractions before bedtime.

Note: Alarms in the Clock app will automatically be set to match the sleep schedule you set.

Is Apple Watch Sleep Tracking Accurate

Do the Apple Watch sleep tracking apps beat a $40 fitness ...

My colleague Henry T. Casey has used AutoSleep, one of the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps from a third-party developer, for several months now. When he ran it alongside Apples native sleep tracking one night, he found Apple credited him with almost a full extra hour of sleep he felt didnt get.

TLDR: AutoSleep is more accurate as it can be calibrated, gives 24 hour tracking , gives sleep insight, has smart alarm. Apple Sleep is for people with a strict schedule wanting a simple record of time asleep and simple set and forget alarm.

Henry reported his experience via Twitter, and an AutoSleep representative wrote back, saying its program is more accurate as it can be calibrated, gives 24 hour tracking , gives sleep insight, has smart alarm. Apples sleep software, on the other hand, is suited for people with a strict schedule wanting a simple record of time asleep.

During my first week with Apple Watch sleep tracking, I also wore the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 to bed. I found my Apple Watch did a better job at recognizing when I wasnt sleeping at 5 a.m. two mornings in a row, once because my black Labrador Retriever wanted breakfast early and once because a thunderstorm rumbled both of us awake.

Heres what waking up with Apples sleep tracking looks like. Kinda impressed to see my watch registered when I got out of bed at 11:45 p.m. to get water, and around 5 a.m. when my dog tried to wake me up for breakfast pic.twitter.com/wgF6I1ZkXx

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Sleep Is Auto Detected

The Apple Clock App, allows you to track sleep manually, but if you just want to wear the watch to sleep and have sleep auto-detected, we believe you will enjoy Sleep Watch sleep analysis more. SleepWatch can log your sleep history and times to the Apple Health App. Automatic sleep tracking from SleepWatch is hassle-free. It is an easy way to manage sleep. Do you ever wonder: Am I getting enough sleep? or Are naps affecting my sleep? Sleep is a curious human activity and SleepWatch may be able to shed some light on many aspects of sleep. How do you sleep? SleepWatch may be able to provide some insights. Cant sleep and want to see your sleep deficit? Snore Apps are interesting, but how do you Sleep overall and how does that change over time? SleepWatch can help you keep track.

Sleep Data Is Modest And Not Particularly Actionable

Apples sleep tracking app interface is simple. Tell it your preferred bedtime schedule in my case, 11 p.m. to just before 6 a.m. and it will be looking out for sleep during those times . It turns out that you must set up tracking schedules to cover each individual day of the week or use separate schedules for weekdays and weekends. I didnt realize until too late that the Watch hadnt recorded data for two full nights because I hadnt set up a separate weekend schedule to cover them.

Assuming the Watch gathers your data properly, youll see a very modest display of data, including a bar representing your total time asleep, the timestamps indicating sleep start and end points, and a bar chart covering the last 14 days. If you want a deeper dive, you can open the Health app on an iPhone to see your average time in bed and average time asleep and under some conditions, a correlation of your overnight heart rate data with your sleeping schedule. When I checked the Health app, one day the heart rate data was there, but another day it disappeared from the apps list of Highlights and I couldnt find it.

Apple has suggested its providing little data to keep users from obsessing over their sleep schedules, as that might inadvertently generate even more anxiety or restlessness. Im still not sure whether thats truly an act of kindness or just a convenient excuse for underwhelming functionality.

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Apple Watch Sleep Tracking Data

Most fitness trackers, such as those from Fitbit, Garmin, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, give you highly detailed data about the amount of time youre in REM sleep, light sleep, or are tossing around in bed. I, for one, dont care what stage of sleep Im in, or how much deep sleep I getI just want to know if Ive slept wellbut I respect not everyone feels that way.

The Galaxy Watch 3, and other fitness trackers Ive tested, offer more actionable insight, which someone with consistent sleep troubles might need. For me, going to bed at the same time every night has been enough of an adjustment to regulate my hours of rest. For others, something like Fitbit Premium, which offers personalized guidance on how they can sleep better and have more energy, might be a better choice.

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