What do you do, then? There are a few workarounds involving apps and using your iPhone; but none are ideal, and we’re going to start with a reminder about the one, big drawback that may change your mind about using the Apple Watch to track sleep at all.
Think about the battery
Here’s a solid reason not to consider the Apple Watch as a wearable sleep tracker — the battery needs charging on a daily basis, and there won’t be any time for that if you’re wearing it all day and night.
If you decide to try sleep tracking with your Watch, it’s advisable to choose an app that doesn’t require you to wear it during the night, or set aside a different time to charge your Watch. Other apps may require you to have your iPhone on the bed with you, which is also an undesirable (and probably quite unsafe) place to charge it.
Sleep tracking using the iPhone is possible, but it comes with many compromises.
Sleep tracking apps
Because sleep isn’t a metric specifically tracked by the Apple Watch, you’re going to have to explore a third-party option from the App Store. Most of these apps require your iPhone to be used in addition to your Apple Watch. Here are four options to consider trying out.
There is no absolute requirement to wear your Apple Watch in bed with the AutoSleep app. If you do, it uses the Watch’s sensors to establish when you sleep, and will then monitor movement and heart rate to provide a sleep score in the morning. If you decide not to wear the Watch while sleeping, the app operates using your iPhone and will only record the amount of time you sleep.
The app has consistently good ratings in the App Store and is one of the most popular sleep tracking apps to download. However, to provide meaningful metrics, you’ll have to wear your Apple Watch and find another time to charge it.
Pillow also uses your iPhone and Apple Watch together to track sleep. If you decide not to wear your Watch to bed, you have to put your iPhone on the bed with you. This way it can more effectively monitor nightly activities including snoring and REM sleep. Pillow also makes use of the phone’s microphone to record noises during the night. If you wear the Watch, heart rate tracking is introduced.
Some features require an in-app purchase to unlock, but many of the features are free, and there is a smart alarm clock too, ready to wake you up at exactly the right time for your body. Just remember not to charge your phone while it’s in bed with you.
Promoted as a smart alarm clock, Sleepzy also tracks sleep if you wear the Apple Watch. It sets goals to meet with sleeping time, will monitor sleep patterns, and provide white noise and sounds to help you fall asleep. There is a subscription package and it’s needed to remove ads and to introduce features like data monitoring over time. Using the iPhone works like other sleep apps, and records sounds, measures sleep quality, and provides feedback on how to sleep better.
Sleep Watch is another app that can use both your iPhone and the Apple Watch to monitor sleep. If you wear the Watch to bed, it’ll automatically start tracking when you fall asleep and has a comprehensive list of features onboard. Data collected includes heart rate, REM sleep patterns, disturbances to sleep, and plenty more.
If you don’t strap on the Apple Watch, the iPhone will perform many of the same functions. Like some of the other apps, there is a subscription service for some of the premium features.
The other option
The Apple Watch is an excellent smartwatch and a highly capable health monitoring tool, but it’s really not suited to sleep monitoring. At least, not yet. Apple is sure to introduce the feature at some stage — especially after its recent purchase of sleep tech company Beddit — but if you don’t want to mess around with apps and your iPhone in the meantime, there is another option to consider.
Why not buy a reasonably priced fitness band with sleep tracking and a heart rate sensor? If you’re willing to set up the Watch and your iPhone to monitor sleep each night, then putting on a fitness band instead is slightly less effort. Most won’t need charging often either. The $40 Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4 is an excellent example, as is the $100 Fitbit Inspire HR.
Alternatively, why not explore the world of non-wearable sleep trackers? The Withings Sleep uses an app on your phone along with a special mat that goes under your mattress, or you could cut out the device entirely and buy a mattress with sleep tracking built-in.
Monitoring your sleep patterns with a view to improving them is just as important as making sure you move around enough during the day. Don’t restrict yourself to the Apple Watch in an effort to gain better insight into your sleep.
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