Apple Watch sleep tracking: What it does and how to use it

Apple Watch Series 8 review photo 17

Apple was pretty late to the sleep tracking party compared to the competition. While it was possible to get some sleep data through third-party apps on the Apple Watch, native sleep tracking support didn’t arrive until 2020 and only included basic sleep tracking with no sleep stages offered. It wasn’t until the launch of watchOS 9 in 2022 that sleep stages appeared, and sleep tracking on the Apple Watch became more useful and more in line with what companies like Fitbit and Garmin offer on their devices.

There are still some sleep tracking features we’d like to see on the Apple Watch, like the equivalent of Garmin’s Body Battery and Fitbit’s Readiness Score, but here’s a look at how Apple Watch sleep tracking currently works and what it offers.

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Apple Watch Series 8

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The Apple Watch Series 8 has a great design, tons of sensors, and more features than you’ll probably know what to do with. Its battery life isn’t the best on the smartwatch market, but fast charging makes it easy to recharge every day, and the fitness features are great.

How does sleep tracking work on Apple Watch?

When Apple’s sleep tracking first arrived on the Apple Watch in 2020, it integrated with the Bedtime feature in the Clock app for iPhone, though things have changed a bit since then. Bedtime is now called Sleep and is part of Focus modes that carry over between iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac.

In order to track your sleep, you need to wear your Apple Watch to bed, you need to have sleep tracking turned on, and your Apple Watch needs to be in sleep mode — or Sleep Focus, as it’s now called. You also need to sleep four hours or more for the tracking to start, so you can’t track your sleep with the Apple Watch sleep tracker.

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When Sleep is turned on, all notifications will be silenced, although you can customize it so that certain apps or certain contacts still appear on the lock screen. To personalize Sleep Focus, tap and hold the Focus tile in Control Center and tap the three dots to the right of Sleep Focus. Then you can tap on Settings.

In addition to being able to enable notifications from selected contacts or apps, you can also customize the lock screen and home screen on your iPhone, as well as customize the Apple Watch screen. You can also turn on ‘Sleep Screen’ for your iPhone and Apple Watch, which simplifies your Lock Screens to reduce distractions, and you can turn on or off ‘Show Time’ depending on whether you want to see the time when your devices are in Sleep Focus.

You can also access your schedule within Sleep Focus, where you can choose a start time to quit and a time to wake up.

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What is Apple’s Sleep Schedule and how do you adjust it?

As part of Apple’s sleep tracking offering, you can create personalized sleep plans on your iPhone to try to meet your sleep goals, whether or not you have an Apple Watch, or whether or not you choose to track your sleep. You do this in the Health app on your iPhone, and once you tap “Get Started” under Set Sleep, you’ll be able to set your sleep goals—or the number of hours you want to sleep—set your bedtime and Wake Up times, and set your Sleep Focus, which we mentioned above.

You can find your sleep schedule, sleep settings, and sleep tracker in multiple places, which is a bit confusing at first, but it makes sense because it ties a few things together. Here are all the places to find Sleep Schedule and Sleep Tracking settings:

  • You can set up and configure sleep in the Sleep app on Apple Watch, in the Health app on iPhone, and in the Sleep section of the Apple Watch app on iPhone).
  • You can adjust all sleep settings in the Sleep section of the Apple Watch app (tap Manage Sleep Focus in Settings) on iPhone or in the Health app on iPhone.
  • You can adjust your sleep schedule and alarm on your Apple Watch as well as in the Clock app on your iPhone.

Before the allotted sleep time you set, you’ll be “ready” to sleep with a rest time (here we’ve set it to 30 minutes) while your Apple Watch dims and locks – your watch is now in sleep mode Focus and all settings will be applied, which you have chosen to sharpen your sleep. Be alerted if you’re out and about in the evening, as your watch will still go into Sleep Focus mode at the scheduled time, so you can easily miss the notification if you don’t forget to turn Sleep Focus off until you get home.

You can also choose whether or not to have charging reminders—your Apple Watch will notify you within an hour before you go to bed if you have less than 30 percent charge.

If you have a newer Apple Watch, such as the Watch Ultra, Watch SE, or Watch Series 8, you’ll almost certainly be fine to get through the night as long as you’ve charged something at some point during the day. Sleep tracking uses about 10 percent of the battery in total. For older Apple Watch models, you’ll likely need to fully charge it during the day to last through the night.

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In Sleep Focus mode, you have to turn the Digital Crown to unlock your Apple Watch, just like you do when you get out of the water after a swim. It’s a little inconvenient when you need to get up at night to use a torch for example, but that’s the way it is, so it’s really unfortunate.

You can disable sleep focus if you want, but if you do, your Apple Watch won’t track your sleep. You can also opt out of sleep tracking entirely, even if you have sleep targeting turned on.

The good thing about sleep tracking on the Apple Watch is that it’s set and forget, so your sleep will be tracked without you having to do anything once Sleep Focus is on if you’ve selected this.

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The results you get from sleep tracking with Apple Watch

Apple’s sleep tracker initially focused on the amount of time spent in bed, and as such was a little less granular than what the likes of Fitbit offered. However, that changed with watchOS 9, as we mentioned at the beginning of this feature. You now get sleep stages, which makes tracking sleep on Apple Watch much more useful.

To view your sleep results, go to Browse > Sleep in the Health app. There are four tabs at the top: Day (D), Week (W), Month (M) and Six Months (6M). On the “D” tab, you’ll see a sleep chart divided into the four sleep stages that most devices use: Wake, REM, Core, and Deep. At the top of the chart, you’ll see your time in bed, which is the time the sleep focus was activated, and your sleep time, which is the amount of time your Apple Watch has been tracking you as you sleep.

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If you tap on any of the Week, Month, or Six Months tabs, you’ll see your sleep stages condensed into a bar graph, allowing you to see your sleep compared to the previous days of the week, month, or the last six months.

You can also tap “See more sleep data” which will give you more information about your sleep, including the time in each of the four stages and the percentage of time in each of the four stages when you’re on the Stages tab. There’s also an Amounts tab that offers a bar graph that shows time spent in bed and time asleep, and a Comparison tab that shows you how your heart rate, breathing rate, and wrist temperature have changed over the course of the day, week, month or more. last six months.

Below the graphs at the top of any of the D, W, M, 6M cards you will find the Highlights section. This will show you your breathing rate and heart rate. Click View All next to the Highlights section to see more information and trends over time.

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How to Set Up Sleep Tracking on Apple Watch

1. Make sure your Apple Watch has watchOS 9 or later and your iPhone has iOS 16 or later.

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

3. First, choose a sleep time – this is a sleep goal, but it’s not tracked in the iPhone Activity app like your rings (you can view it in the iPhone Health app). We chose eight hours, although this is certainly more of an aspiration than a reality.

4. Next, you set when the convenience store starts and when you have to wake up. There are actually quite a few options, so go through them carefully. You need to set it for every day, or for example only for weekdays.

5. You’ll need to set a relaxation time before you go to bed – you can also choose to link to a Siri Shortcut to perform other automations, such as turning off the lights at home. Wind Down can also be connected to, for example, a music playlist.

6. You can decide whether or not you want to set an alarm clock and what it should sound like. Note that this won’t replace your existing alarms on your Apple Watch (or your iPhone—you have to turn them off manually).

The alarm sounds on your iPhone if you don’t have an Apple Watch, and on your watch if you have one. You can also fully configure the alarm sound. If the watch is set to silent mode, it will only vibrate.

7. You can see your sleep patterns in the Health app on iPhone – view by week, month or six months.

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