Sleep tracking with Apple Watch is a great way to gain new insights into your sleep habits and trends over time. There are a number of different sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, including built-in options from Apple itself.
Read on as we round up the best sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch and compare Apple’s first-party solution to the competition.
Native Apple Watch Sleep Tracking
With the release of watchOS 7 in 2020, the Apple Watch added official support for sleep tracking without the need for a third-party application.
We went hands-on with the experience when it was released, explaining that Apple is connecting Apple Watch sleep tracking features with new iPhone features like Wind Down and Wake Up for a seamless experience across devices.
There’s 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 and what time your alarm is set for. It also disables features like raise to wake so your watch face doesn’t light up in the middle of the night.
To view sleep data tracked by your Apple Watch, 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 sleep time and an interval for your heart rate. This is where third-party applications still prove useful. They can offer much more data than Apple’s native implementation, and you don’t have to wait until the fall to get started.
What about battery life?
Before you start tracking your sleep with Apple Watch, make a plan for when you charge your watch. There are two primary options here: before bed or after you wake up in the morning. One key change for me has been placing an extra Apple Watch charger at my desk instead of on my nightstand.
For me, it’s much easier to recharge before bed every night. If I put my Apple Watch on the charger around 8:00 p.m., after I’ve already reached my battery goal for the day, it’s usually fully charged when I go to bed at 8:00 p.m. 9.30pm and when I wake up. in the morning I almost always have more than 90% battery left – more than enough to get me through the day.
Plus, on days when I need a mid-day recharge, having the spare Apple Watch charger on my desk makes it much easier.
This works perfectly for me, but your routine is probably different than mine. The key is to come up with a plan that you can replicate every day. Whether it’s charging in the morning or at night, or a combination of both, it’s a lot easier than you might think to change your Apple Watch charging habits.
Of course, there is also always the option of reusing an old Apple Watch as your dedicated “sleep alarm”. 9to5 Macs Zac Hall has previously explained how to do it. You can also pick up a used or refurbished older Apple Watch model to do this.
Once you’ve established a charging routine for your Apple Watch, it’s time to choose a sleep tracking app. There are a few different options.
AutoSleep is probably the most popular Apple Watch sleep tracking app in the App Store, and for good reason. It provides some of the most in-depth data, including a detailed look at sleep, sleep quality, heart rate, deep sleep and more.
AutoSleep uses a system of rings to help you monitor these key statistics. The main interface shows you rings for sleep, sleep quality, deep sleep and bpm. All this data comes at a cost, however, and AutoSleep’s interface can feel a bit overwhelming once you dive into all the data available. Still, recent changes to the app have made it much easier to see a breakdown of all that data.
AutoSleep also offers an excellent Apple Watch application that makes it easy to get a quick look at the current day’s sleep data. There’s also a “readiness” score that tries to predict how ready you’ll be for the day based on your sleep that night.
More about AutoSleep:
AutoSleep is available on the App Store for $4.99 as a one-time purchase.
Sleep++ is another popular sleep tracking app for Apple Watch with support for automatic sleep tracking, bedtime reminders, sleep goals and more. In the Sleep++ app, the main interface provides a detailed look at your sleep habits over the past few days.
Like its competitors, Sleep++ also offers a lot of data on sleep trends, cycles, phases and more. You can also see a detailed timeline of your sleep, including when you were relaxed, restless and awake, with a particularly neat look at when your “best sleep” occurred.”
Sleep++ also recently added a useful new “Readiness Score”, making it easy to know when to take it easy and recharge for the next day.
One of the best things about Sleep++ is that it’s completely free, with an optional in-app purchase to remove ads. If you’re looking for a data-rich automatic Apple Watch sleep tracker, download Sleep++ from the App Store.
When I wrote about sleep apps for the Apple Watch nearly three years ago, Pillow was an option I wasn’t aware of at the time, but several 9to5Mac readers suggested I try it. With features like automatic sleep detection and heart rate analysis, Pillow fits right in among the rest of the market.
One of the main features of Pillow is its support for recording important audio events throughout the night. This means the app can track data including snoring, sleep apnea and sleep talking, but the biggest caveat here is that noise detection only works in manual mode.
There’s also support for viewing detailed sleep trends over time, personalized recommendations and more. You can try Pillow in the App Store for free with in-app purchases.
NapBot is a relative newcomer to Apple Watch sleep tracking, and it’s quickly becoming one of the most powerful options. NapBot uses machine learning to perform automatic sleep tracking so you can see details about phases, trends and more.
NapBot offers an impressive amount of data in an impressively easy-to-navigate interface. The “Calendar” tab in the app allows you to get a detailed look at your sleep on a daily basis, and you can select a specific day to see more detailed information about heart rate and phases.
NapBot has also just launched its first Apple Watch app that is completely independent of the iPhone. It currently only allows you to see the previous day’s sleep, but hopefully it will add more options and historical data over time.
NapBot is the newest Apple Watch sleep tracking app, but it’s also quickly becoming my favorite. You can download it for free in the App Store with in-app purchases.
SleepWatch is one of the most popular sleep tracking apps on iPhone and Apple Watch. It has over 300,000 ratings in the App Store with an average of over 4.5 stars. The app offers a number of powerful data collection features, including:
- Total sleep time
- Sleep rhythm
- HR Dip
- Sleep HRV
- 2-day sleep goal
- Relaxing sleep
- Sleep disorders
- Sleep Blood Oxygen
SleepWatch is available on the App Store as a free download with a $4.99 per month subscription. month in the app to unlock each feature.
Last but not least, we have Sleep Cycle, which offers apps for iPhone and Apple Watch. Sleep Cycle sets itself apart with a number of unique features, such as Philips Hue integration, a smart alarm clock, unique data and trends, and much more.
- Sleep analysis with Sleep Cycle patented sound technology or accelerometer
- Snooze by lightly shaking or double-clicking the phone
- Customized wake-up window. From instant (regular alarm clock), up to 45 minutes
- Sound recorder and trends – Capture snoring, sleep talking and other sounds and see your trends
- Trends – collect long-term trends about your sleep patterns
- Benchmark Data – Compare your sleep patterns with world sleep statistics
- Weather and sleep – See how different types of weather affect your sleep quality
- Sleep Notes – See how events like drinking coffee, stress, exercising or eating late affect your sleep quality
- Philips HUE bulb support – Simulate a natural sunrise to give you an even softer awakening
Sleep Cycle is available in the App Store as a free download with in-app purchases to unlock the full set of premium features.
Which one should you choose?
Despite all the new entrants into the Apple Watch sleep tracking industry, I still think AutoSleep is the most powerful option. AutoSleep offers you a lot of data and you can pick and choose if you want to read too much into it.
Additionally, I pair the AutoSleep data with the features introduced with watchOS 7 and iOS 14. You can still use features like Wind Down and Sleep Mode, and track data using third-party sources like AutoSleep.
The key, no matter which application you choose, is to make sure there is some sort of automatic sleep detection feature. This reduces friction and means you don’t have to remember to manually start a sleep tracking session every night before bed. Instead, your Apple Watch can track your sleep in the background without any interaction from you.
These apps also integrate with Apple’s Health app, meaning you can get an overview of your sleep data alongside everything else in the Health app. The Health app is useful for tracking long-term trends and averages, but if you want detailed data, you’ll need to jump to your favorite third-party app.
Of course, the Apple Watch Series 8 is also rumored to bring even more advanced sleep tracking features with improved hardware. We’ll have to see what exactly that means and whether third-party apps can use this information.
Do you track your sleep with Apple Watch? Which app do you prefer? Tell us in the comments!
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