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

(Pocket-lint) – In the latest watchOS 7 update Apple will enable you to track sleep using the Apple Watch. The update isn’t yet generally available but will become so in the coming days. 

watchOS 7 works with Apple Watch Series 3, 4, 5 and the new Apple Watch Series 6 we’re expecting. It isn’t compatible with Series 1 or 2. 

Sleep tracking has been a much-wanted feature for the Apple Watch and has been available previously in third-party apps. Now though, there is a Sleep app on the watch and it uses motion to detect your sleep time. You obviously need to be wearing your Watch to track your sleep, so you’ll probably need to change your charging behaviour and juice up in the day. 

The good thing about it is that it is set-and-forget, so your sleep will be tracked without you having to do anything. But it’s fully configurable as you’ll see. 

How Apple Watch Sleep tracking works

Apple’s sleep tracking integrates with the existing Bedtime feature on the iPhone’s Clock app (now called Sleep), so you turn it on and create a schedule.

Before your allocated bedtime you’ll be ‘prepared’ for sleep with a wind-down time (we’ve set it for 45 minutes here) while your Apple Watch becomes dimmed and locked – your Watch is now in ‘Sleep Mode’.

Do Not Disturb is automatically turned on but you can disable this either when you set up Sleep or in the Health app’s Sleep Settings after or in the Sleep section of the Apple Watch app.

You can also choose whether or not to have charging reminders – the watch will warn you within an hour of bedtime if you have less than 30 percent charge. If you have a Series 4 or 5 you’ll almost certainly be OK if you charged during the day at some point. 

In Sleep Mode, you need to turn the digital crown to unlock the watch just as you do when you step out of water after swimming. We actually found this a bit irritating when we needed to get up in the night and use the torch, for example. You can disable Sleep Mode but leave sleep tracking on or you can also turn sleep tracking off but leave Sleep Mode on, it’s up to you. 

Apple’s sleep tracking only records the amount of time spent in bed and as such its a little less nuanced than some sleep tracking like Fitbit’s – or Jawbone’s excellent sleep tracking if you used that in the past. It will record if you’re using your iPhone in bed as well! 

You can access Sleep options and tracking in various places, which is somewhat confusing at first but does make sense because it ties several things together. So: 

  • You can set up and configure Sleep in the Sleep app on your Apple Watch, the Health app on iPhone and the Sleep section of the Apple Watch app on iPhone).
  • You can edit all Sleep Settings in the Sleep section of the Apple Watch app on iPhone or the Health app on iPhone.
  • You can edit the Sleep schedule and alarm on Apple Watch as well as in the Clock app on iPhone. 

How to set up sleep tracking on Apple Watch

1. Ensure your Apple Watch is on watchOS 7 and your iPhone is running iOS 14. This can be the public betas of these currently. 

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

3. Firstly, choose the duration of sleep – this is a Sleep goal but it isn’t tracked in the iPhone Activity app like your rings (you can view it in the Health app on iPhone). We’ve chosen eight hours. 

4. Next, you set when bedtime begins and when you need to wake up. There are actually a bunch of options here, so go through them carefully. Do you need to set it for every day, or just weekdays.

5. You’ll need to set a relaxation time before you go to bed – you can also choose to link this to a Siri Shortcut to do other automation such as turning off a light at home, for example. Wind Down can also be linked to a music playlist, for example. 

6. You can decide whether or not to set an alarm and how you want it to sound. Note that this won’t replace your existing alarms on Apple Watch (or your iPhone – you need to turn those off manually).

Your alarm will sound on your iPhone if you don’t have your Apple Watch on and on your Watch if you do have it on. You can fully configure the alarm sound as well. If your Watch is set to silent, it will just vibrate. 

7. You can see your sleep patterns in the Health app on iPhone – view by week or month. You can definitely see the gaps in my sleep here. As you can see, a small child is not conducive to meeting your sleep goal! 

Writing by Dan Grabham.

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