Sleep tracking with the Apple Watch – how it works


The Apple Watch is Apple’s most personal computer. The smartwatch is always on your wrist in everyday life. As a fitness tracker, as an EKG and as a fall detector and even as a meditation aid, the smart watch aims to sustainably improve the health of its users. This is achieved above all with its many sensors – such as the pulse monitor.

But the Apple Watch can do more than just monitor and monitor the active phases of everyday life. With the right apps and worn at night, the smart gadget can also improve your sleep. The whole thing is called “sleep tracking”, ie the observation of sleep. Thanks to the watch’s motion sensors, the Apple Watch can determine how calm or restless you are while sleeping. The internal microphone can detect disturbing noises from the environment or even snoring. With the heart rate monitor, records about awake phases are achievable. The Apple Watch can register all this information while you sleep and present it the next morning.

Apple and sleep tracking

The Apple Watch seems to be made for the task of monitoring sleep – it is all the more surprising that there has not yet been any Apple initiative in this direction. The rumor has long suspected that the company is working on corresponding functions.

Better sleep through meditation

Those who have problems with poor sleep, especially when falling asleep, may also generally have problems with coping with stress. Regardless of whether it is personal trouble at home or challenging projects on the job: a good night’s sleep requires rest. Therefore, in addition to recording sleep times using sleep tracker apps, a completely different function of the Apple Watch can also be helpful: the breathing app. Regular meditation exercises can be a quick and easy aid for coping with stress. Two short meditation exercises a day are usually enough; one exercise after getting up and one after work should be integrated into everyday life.The pre-installed breathing app records your heart rate and helps you take a deep breath. The application also transfers the results to the Health app. Just try it out!

The health app can already record data from sleep tracker apps, but the Apple Watch has not yet created this independently. However, Apple is obviously working diligently behind the scenes on this topic: In 2017, the company took over a provider of sleep trackers, in October 2019 even a reference to a “Sleep” app appeared in a screenshot for the alarm clock app on the Apple Watch on. So it only seems a matter of time before Apple retrofits the corresponding functions for its smartwatch. With a simple software update, these could also reach older models of the watch, provided that they have the required sensors.

Sleep tracking with “Sleep Watch”

There are a variety of health apps in the App Store. There are also some sleep trackers and wake-up aids. Sleep Watch, for example, takes care of the automatic recording of your night’s sleep. When you set up the app for the first time, you first create a user account and enter some personal data, such as your weight and height. You can then link the app to Apple’s Health app to view the data on your sleep phases.

The subsequent use of the sleep tracker works automatically. You wear the Apple Watch while sleeping, make sure you have enough battery capacity – and the rest happens without your intervention. The next morning you will automatically receive a report of your night’s sleep. Sleep Watch informs you about your sleep duration and patterns. The app tries to automatically detect at night when you wake up, sleep lightly or deeply. The application derives this data from your movements and your pulse. When evaluating data, Sleep Watch checks whether you have had a good night’s sleep for several days and shows you the corresponding developments. During the day, the application queries your wrist for how relaxed you feel. All of this flows into the data evaluation, which provides daily, weekly and monthly averages.Sleep Watch is generally free of charge. With a paid subscription, you unlock other functions. Then the watch app offers, for example, an alarm clock that wakes you up from light sleep phases and should make it easier to wake up. In addition, there is also data collection for automatic sleep detection as well as more precise evaluations and notifications. The subscription costs around 4.50 euros per month or 33 euros per year.

Check out Sleep Watch on the AppStore

The automatic data collection works quite reliably overall in our long-term test, but some incorrect recordings can sometimes occur. Sleep Watch, for example, recorded the cozy visit to the cinema on Sunday afternoon as a light sleep phase – the film was not particularly exciting, but it wasn’t sleepy either. You can also delete these false surveys and compare your digital sleep account with reality.

Autosleep prepares your data like Apple’s activity app with colorful rings. Sleep Watch automatically records the sleep phases when wearing the Apple Watch at night and presents an evaluation in the morning. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app tries to wake you up during a light sleep phase instead of at a fixed time.

Sleep tracking with “Autosleep”

An alternative to Sleep Watch is Autosleep. This app also automatically recognizes your sleep phases and delivers visually appealing data evaluations in English. Analogous to Apple’s activity app for workouts, Autosleep prepares the evaluations in colorful rings. Completing the rings should also motivate better “performance”, that is, better sleep.

However, some data points differ in direct comparison. In the test, Autosleep detected less deep sleep phases than Sleep Watch. At first glance, the data preparation also appears somewhat more abstract. Autosleep works with rings, but initially does not adequately explain what they stand for or how you can close these rings. Only a look at the settings provides help here.So you can set yourself which goals you can or want to achieve with the individual rings. In the settings you can also calibrate the automatic sleep detection.

In the test, Autosleep also understood the visit to the cinema as an afternoon nap. However, the preset calibration responded better to quiet desk work and did not automatically record it as sleep phases.

Check out AutoSleep sleep tracker on the AppStore

Autosleep costs around 3.50 euros in a one-time purchase. There is no subscription model or additional in-app purchases. So if you want to make your first attempts at sleep tracking with the Apple Watch, the best thing to do is to use Sleep Watch first. Autosleep is the better solution for experienced users.

Wake up with the iPhone

For many users, the iPhone has now replaced the alarm clock. However, the iPhone also has some disadvantages with this use: The last grip before going to bed and the first action after waking up. This can be very disturbing to fall asleep and wake up: If you check Twitter before going to sleep, process important e-mails or even write in WhatsApp groups, you may be less able to switch off and fall asleep. Even if the first attention goes to the phone in the morning and greets the nightly messages from the boss, this can bring back the stress that has actually been removed.

Apple knows that too – and that’s why there is also the “bedtime” function in the watch app in addition to the alarm clock. This will set up a time window in which you definitely want to be in bed, as well as a suitable alarm clock for the next morning. The clock app also records these rough sleeping times in the health application.

Data protection in your sleep?

Our test of the sleep tracker on the Apple Watch showed that Apple’s possible move in this direction could be interesting from another perspective: Data protection has traditionally been more important to Apple than to the competition. Because the Apple Watch as a sleep companion on the wrist feels amazingly intimate – not only because the device observes the wearer’s sleep up close, but also because it is equipped with a microphone and can listen to and record nightly noises in the bedroom. With some apps, the analysis of snoring noises, for example, requires this function. Where this data ends up and what happens to it is often less clear than necessary when used.Apple’s handling of personal and sensitive data mostly focuses on local storage instead of cloud solutions. This approach could make it easier for many to use a sleep tracker.

Unlike the normal alarm clock, the iPhone switches to do not disturb mode during this time. This means that you will still receive notifications, but they will not appear on the iPhone’s home screen as the first greeting on the new morning. Instead, your smartphone wishes you a good morning and gives weather information for the new day. Waking up is therefore potentially gentler than with a normal alarm clock. You can use the bedtime function without the Apple Watch as a sleep tracker, but the data collected remains inaccurate – because the app does not know exactly when you fall asleep and how restless your sleep is.

In addition to Apple’s own alarm clock function, there are otherSleeping apps on the App Store for a better tomorrow. WithSleep Cycle you use the iPhone not only as an alarm clock, but also as a sleep aid. Various background sounds, such as the sound of the sea, are intended to calm you down. The alarm clock for the next morning is more flexible than the classic alarm with a fixed time: you only specify a time to wake up, and Sleep Cycle uses a half-hour window to wake you up in a light sleep phase.

For this to work, you have to place your iPhone correctly next to you at night – on a fixed shelf, for example, so that the microphone can analyze your sleep movements. The iPhone’s motion sensor also helps, but you have to put the smartphone on your mattress – a rather sub-optimal solution. If desired, Sleep Cycle can also record your snoring so that the next morning you can get information on restless sleep – if your partner has not already done so.

For the full version, you need a paid subscription for just under 30 euros per year. In addition to the sleep aid and the snore sensor, you also get extended statistics on your sleep behavior.

Night’s sleep – despite Apple Watch

No matter which solution you choose: As soon as you use the smartwatch at night, you have to take some pragmatic changes in the use of Apple Watch and iPhone into account. This most likely affects the watch’s loading rhythm. If you have previously used the nights to charge the battery, you must now switch to a different time window – for example, in the morning directly after getting up, in the evening before falling asleep or during the day during the lunch break. Fortunately, the watch can be charged quite quickly: after an hour and a half, you have already recharged around 80 percent of the battery in the current Apple Watch.
At night it is also important to consider other factors. Since the watch cannot yet automatically distinguish between day and night, it behaves the same way at night as during the day. This means that each notification causes the watch to vibrate or light up. Movement of the arm can also illuminate the watch. This can disturb the night’s sleep – both yours and that of your partner.

Therefore, activate both the theater mode and the do not disturb mode of the watch in the evening. The theater mode prevents the clock display from lighting up due to your movements, “do not disturb” any notifications with sound and haptics. You can even activate and deactivate this mode automatically at fixed times – this ensures a better night’s sleep and a refreshed wake up without much effort.
We think you might also like

Best Sleeping Apps for iPhone and iPad

Related Topics
About the author
GeeksModo Staff
GeeksModo Staff
GeeksModo Staff is a team of iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch experts led by Moses Johnson. We're passionate about all things Apple!

Submit a comment

On the wire

Trending Now

Editors’ Recommendations