Start Tracking Your Sleep With The Apple Watch
Want to know how well you are sleeping, or not sleeping? Heres a look at how to get started with Apple Watch sleep tracking apps and some of what Ive found so far.
Although counting steps seem to be a big craze with fitness trackers, your sleep plays a big part in your overall health. As someone who suffers from;insomnia and other sleep problems, Ive always been interested in sleep trackers.
Ive tried other trackers in the past that specialize in sleep tracking as well as general fitness trackers, but the Apple Watch;seems to provide the most accurate and actionable data. After trying a bunch of trackers, I found the best.
How Do You Access The Sleep App On Apple Watch
The first thing youll need is an Apple Watch that is capable of running watchOS7. The following models are capable of tracking your sleep:
- Apple Watch 3
- Apple Watch 4
- Apple Watch 5
Youll also need an iPhone running iOS14 or higher, which requires an iPhone 6S or newer.
Apple rolled out the watchOS7 update in the fall. Before it was officially released, the offered users the opportunity enroll in the watchOS7 beta to try out the new Sleep app before anyone else. You can sign up for the Apple software beta program here if you want early access to future updates.
Apple Watch tracks your sleep consistency over a 14 day period.
What Is Apple Watch Sleep Tracking
In the past, many devices such as Fitbits and Garmins have been able to automatically track your time asleep and then provide you with insights on how well you’re resting. The feature only came to the Apple Watch last year with WatchOS 7, and it’s immensely useful once you get started.
The Apple Watch tracks sleep via its built-in accelerometer motion sensor. It uses it to identify if you’re moving around or when you’re still enough so that it believes you’re asleep.;
Like any device, it’s not perfect as if you happen to stay very still during the day, it may get confused, but it’s reasonably accurate so it’s a great starting point for judging your sleep pattern.;
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How To Set Up Sleep Tracking On Apple Watch
Justin Duino is the Managing Editor at How-To Geek. He has spent the last decade writing about Android, smartphones, and other mobile technology. In addition to his written work, he has also been a regular guest commentator on CBS News and BBC World News and Radio to discuss current events in the technology industry. Read more…
Sleep tracking is natively available on all Apple Watches Series 3 and newer. Its an automatic feature that tracks data when you go to bed while wearing the smartwatch, but you do have to set it up. Heres how to configure sleep tracking on your Apple Watch.
Although you can set up sleep tracking on your Apple Watch, its much easier to do on your iPhone. First, make sure your iPhone is running iOS 14 or higher, and your Apple Watch is running;watchOS 7 or higher. If not, the sleep tracking settings wont be available.
To get started, tap and open the Health app on your iPhone. You can swipe down on the Home screen, and then use Spotlight Search;to find it if necessary.
Next, tap the Browse tab, and then tap Sleep.
You can now schedule your bedtime routine. Having a set schedule helps your Apple Watch start monitoring for sleep activity. It also sets an automatic alarm to wake you in the morning.
Tap Full Schedule & Options.
In the Full Schedule section, tap Set Your First Schedule.
Choose which days of the week you want to use this schedule. Then, set your Bedtime and Wake Up times.
Which App Is Best
AutoSleep and Pillow are both excellent choices. Neither one is free , but neither is expensive. Perhaps most importantly, both AutoSleep and Pillow are one-time purchases; in this age of subscription-based apps, its nice to just buy something and own it.
Both apps gave me similar data about total sleep time, but their reports for how much good sleep I got or how long I spent in deep sleep were often wildly different. I get the feeling that they simply have different definitions of these things. What is more important is that theyre both pretty consistent, at least once you set them up properly and youve given the learning heuristics a week or two to figure out your sleep patterns.
I found Pillows basic information to be presented in a more appealing and easy to understand format, and its Apple Watch app and notifications are great. I like AutoSleeps charts for detailed information, but I honestly rarely drill down that deep. Pillows daily sleep summary notification includes a little graph, which I appreciate.
We still think Apple should provide its own sleep tracking in watchOS 6. Given all the ways Apple is using machine learning to build activity profiles, fall detection, and more, it seems like a natural fit. But until then, you can get a great third-party alternative for just a few bucks with either AutoSleep or Pillow.
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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.
Set Up Sleep On Apple Watch
Open the Sleep app on your watch . Tap the schedule, then select the Wake Up time if you wish to change it. Turn on an alarm if you need one to wake you up at the right time. Tap the time for Bedtime if you want to change that as well.
Return to the main screen and tap Full Schedule if you wish to turn off your Sleep Schedule for any specific nights or all nights. Here, you can also add a schedule and change your sleep goal or Wind Down time. Then just wear your watch to bed.
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How We Picked And Tested
When it comes to sleep-tracking apps, its easy to get caught up in the functional details. But the ultimate goal isnt to track your sleep perfectly; its to track trends in your sleep so that you can better understand and improve it. To make that happen, several other features are also crucial in a tracking app. Heres what we looked for in the apps, in order of importance:
It was impossible to test all of the sleep apps on the iTunes store and Google Play, so we started by choosing the most downloaded apps that also had ratings of more than four out of five stars. Then we confirmed that in addition to keeping our data secure, the apps could export that data . We also sent out a few emails to customer support to see how responsive the companies were. In the end, we selected four apps to test: Pillow, Sleep as Android, Sleep Cycle, and SleepScore.
In 2018, Joanne spent eight days testing all four apps at the same time , and tested some of them individually for a few days. She also compared the four apps while wearing fitness bands and a couple of apps on the Apple Watch on the same wrist, to find out if buying a phone app is necessary if you already have a wearable fitness tracker.
The apps presented the results, as you can see here from one typical night, in a variety of ways.
Apple Watch Sleep App
It would be remiss not to start this guide by mentioning the built-in Apple Watch sleep tracking feature, which debuted with watchOS 7.
It’s far more simplistic than any of the other apps on this list, so if you’re used to in-depth data on your sleep cycles, deep sleep or other biometric data you might be a little underwhelmed.
However, it combines with the iPhone to put a focus on your sleep consistency and sleep hygiene. It’s about setting bedtime and wake ups which can build better sleep, and the Apple Watch will also keep tabs on sleep duration and heart rate during sleep.
We’ve tested against the Fitbit Sense and Withings Sleep Analyzer and found it to be one of the most accurate trackers in terms of sleep duration. It’s not just tracking the time in bed, but how long you actually slept between tossing and turning something that many systems regularly over-estimate.
You don’t get much in terms of stats to review. You can see your average time in bed, average sleep and the duration of each sleep. This is visible both on the Apple Watch and the Health app.
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Does The Apple Watch Have Enough Battery To Track Sleep
Battery life has been pointed to as a reason why Apple might have been reluctant to offer its own sleep tracking app in the past. Apple still states an 18 hour battery life for its smartwatch, which hasnt changed since the first Watch. Any battery improvements have been canceled out by features like the Apple Watch 5s always-on screen.
To make sure you have enough battery to track sleep through the night, Apple requires your watch to be charged to at least 30% to enable it.;
If you dont, the Watch will prompt you to charge before going to bed. When its got enough juice, your phone will alert you that its ready to join you in bed. In our time we found that sleep tracking sucked up around 20% battery on average, so its definitely going to impact how much battery youre left with in the morning.
On What Devices Can You Use Sleep Tracking
Remember that your Apple Watch needs to be on watchOS 7, while your iPhone must run iOS 14. This feature is integrated into those versions of watchOS and iOS, so using the latest available version is the only way to access sleep tracking.
We would also like to note that watchOS 7 is available on an Apple Watch Series 3 and later and also requires an iPhone 6s running iOS 14. Therefore, this feature should work on devices released in 2015 and later.
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Native Apple Watch Sleep Tracking
With the release of watchOS 7 last year, Apple Watch now officially supports sleep tracking without needing a third-party application.
We went hands-on with the experience when it was released, explaining that Apple is tying Apple Watch sleep-tracking capabilities in with new iPhone features such as Wind Down and Wake Up for a seamless cross-device experience.
Theres a new Sleep app on the Apple Watch, as well as a Sleep Mode that hides your usual watch face and instead shows the current time, as well as what time your alarm is set for. It also disables features like raise-to-wake, so your watch face isnt lighting up in the middle of the night.
To view the sleep data tracked by your Apple Watch, you can go to the Sleep app on Apple Watch or the Health app on iPhone. The actual data here is limited. Apple simply shows you your time asleep, as well as a range for your heart rate. Thats where third-party applications still prove useful. They can offer much more data than Apples native implementation, and you dont have to wait until the fall to get started.
How To Edit Apple Watch Alarm Sounds & Haptics
We all have individual preferences on the best ways to wake up. Your Apple Watch offers haptics, a unique kinetic way of communicating with you through vibrations. These can be set to different intensities and rhythms based on your preference.
Once this is set up, the alarm will go off on your Apple Watch if you wear it to bed, or on your iPhone if you’re not wearing your watch.
Pro Tip: If your schedule changes unexpectedly, you can always change your alarm for just the upcoming day. Open the Clock app and tap Change under Sleep | Wake Up. Once you toggle off the alarm, you’ll be asked if you want to change the alarm schedule altogether, or just for that day.
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Accuracy Is A Positive
The biggest positive I noted is a sense developed over time and in consultation with others who have been testing the feature that Apples sleep tracking data is mostly correct, even if theres not much of it. My Watch appears to be properly extrapolating whether Im asleep rather than just in bed based on sensor data, including some lack of movement, certain wrist positioning information, heartbeat scans, and perhaps external factors. The aqua bars and gaps lined up temporally with my nightly sleeping recollections, down to roughly the minute I fell asleep. Two friends and my kids have all had the same experience.
As a father, Im already fretting when I see multiple brief interruptions in my kids sleep bars when theyre sleeping at another location. If this is the future of health tracking, I can imagine several reasons Apple and clinicians, including privacy-concerned ones might be concerned about presenting too much data, now and going forward. But in a health setting, users should have the ability to choose how much data they feel comfortable seeing, rather than being told that little or no data is being presented to shield them.
Paid Membership: 7 Days Free $399/month Or $2999/year To Gain Access To Better Analysis
SleepWatch provides the most data of any of the tested apps, but you’ll have to buy a membership to make the most of it, as well as receive heart rate comparisons and comprehensive sleep analyses. The paid membership will give you a numeric value for your quality of sleep think of it as your sleep credit score!
You’ll also get data based on your sleep patterns, a ratio of light-to-restful sleep, and your heart rate. You can view this data on your Apple Watch, as well as on the mobile app.
You can set your sleep goal and adjust the sensitivity of the sleep detection. The Smart Bedtime Reminder is another paid feature that will remind you to go to sleep at a certain time to improve your sleep rhythm.
If you love to analyze data and see how changing your lifestyle can affect your sleep, then this is the app for you.
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Get More Out Of Your Apple Watch Sleep Tracking
Dont settle for limited info. Many Apple Watch owners use third-party apps to supplement the Sleep app and collect more details.
- The widely popular app Autosleep integrates seamlessly with and even offers a similar experience to Apples activity rings. Autosleep tracks the duration of your sleep and the quality and lets you know your readiness or how prepared you are for the day based on your rest.
- Another highly-rated option,;Sleep++ provides data-driven sleep tracking that lets you know how many times a night you entered deep sleep.
- Pillow offers in-depth sleep analysis charts and a smart alarm clock function that will wake you up at the optimal time for maximum refreshment.
Think About The Battery
Heres where sleep tracking with the Apple Watch falls down somewhat. The battery needs charging on a daily basis, so there wont be any time for that if youre wearing it all day and night. Of course, you could set aside a different time to charge your Watch, if that works for your schedule. If you dont want to wear your Watch in bed, or if you have an older device, you could use a third-party sleep-tracking app. Bear in mind that some apps may require you to have your iPhone on the bed with you, which is also an undesirable place to charge it.
Sleep tracking using the iPhone is possible, but it comes with many compromises.
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