A Sleep app on an Apple Watch.
Kevin Parrish

Without proper sleep, you can’t fully focus. Plus, a tired mind makes you prone to overeating. If you track your sleep on your Apple Watch, it can help you avoid these issues and maintain your health.

Apple currently doesn’t provide a sleep tracker for the Apple Watch. Even though there’s a “Sleep” category in Apple’s Health app, that information comes from third-party sleep tracking apps that are already installed on your iPhone. To track your sleep, you have to use a third-party solution, like AutoSleep or Pillow.

The Apple Watch also doesn’t include hardware specifically designed to track sleep. To get an accurate reading, a device has to measure brain activity. Obviously, that’s not the case here, as an Apple watch relies on various built-in technologies to create a general analysis. This data includes inactivity and your heart rate.

However, sleep trackers on smart devices can give you an idea of what your sleep patterns are. Of course, if you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough sleep and the effects, you should always consult your physician.

Getting Started

The three sleep tracker apps we cover in this guide shouldn’t exhaust your Apple Watch’s battery. We didn’t notice any unusual battery depletion while running all three simultaneously. Your Watch merely collects the data and pipes it all over to your paired iPhone or iPad. However, additional tasks, like recording audio overnight, will deplete the battery.

You can use these apps without your Watch, but the results will be limited because the app won’t be able to monitor your heart rate, movement, and so on. Ideally, you should wear your Apple Watch to bed if you want to track your sleep.

When you do wear your Watch to bed, you’ll want to disable the “Wake Screen on Wrist Raise” feature. It’s unnecessary while you’re asleep and could accelerate your Watch’s battery drain.

To disable this feature, open the Watch app on your iPhone, and then tap “General.” On the following screen, tap “Wake Screen,” and then toggle-Off (gray) the “Wake Screen on Wrist Raise” setting.

Toggle-Off "Wake Screen on Wrist Raise."

The AutoSleep Tracker App

The AutoSleep Tracker app ($2.99) tracks your sleep in two ways. If you wear your Apple Watch to bed, the app automatically calculates your sleep; if you don’t, the app calculates your sleep based on the time you didn’t wear the device, and when you first access your iPhone the following morning.

The initial setup process asks if you wear an Apple Watch to bed—just tap “Yes” or “No.”

The "Will you be Wearing your Watch when Sleeping" prompt in the AutoSleep Tracker app.

To change this setting later in the AutoSleep app, tap “Settings” in the bottom-right corner.

Tap "Settings" in the AutoSleep app.

Before you use AutoSleep, you’ll want to configure it here, as well. To do so, tap “Settings” and, on the following screen, scroll down to the “Configure” section and tap “Wizard.”

Tap "Wizard."

Here, you see two toggles: “I Wear My Watch to Bed and Want to Track Sleep Quality” and “If I Don’t Wear My Watch to Bed I Want to Track My Sleep Based on the Time the Watch Was Not Worn.”

You already set the first option in the initial setup process, but you can change it here. If you don’t wear your Watch to bed, enable the other toggle, and the app will track your sleep based on the time you’re not wearing your Watch.

Tap “OK” to continue.

Tap "OK" when you're done in the Wizard menu.

On the next screen, you can set a “night hour,” which is the hour before you close your eyes for the night. It only offers one-hour increments between 5 p.m. and 12 a.m. The idea is to help you keep a positive sleep “bank” and force yourself to stick with a consistent sleep schedule.

Tap “OK” to continue.

Set your Night Hour, and then tap "OK."

Next, tap the plus (+) and minus (-) signs to set your quiet time. This disables sleep tracking during the time you set (for example, if you read news on your iPhone prior to your night hour). You can change this setting in one-hour increments up to 20 hours.

Tap “OK” to continue.

Set your quiet time, and then tap "OK."

Finally, if you use your iPhone in bed, touching or moving it indicates you’re awake. On the “Use iPhone?” screen, toggle-On “No” if you sleep with your iPhone and don’t want the app to use it to track sleep measurements.

Tap “OK” to complete the wizard.

Tap "OK" in the "Use iPhone?" screen to exit the Wizard.

When you open AutoSleep, the “Today” screen appears by default. The top card (“Sleep Session”) shows a bar graph that details the previous night’s sleep session. A red dotted line depicts your heart rate. Purple bars show deep sleep, light blue indicates still and light sleep, and green shows when you’re awake.

A "Sleep Session" bar graph in the AutoSleep app.

Tap this card to see additional reports about your sleep session, including sleep efficiency, your heart rate throughout the session, and environmental noise (on Series 4 and higher Apple Watches).

Outside the “Sleep Session” card, the “Today” screen offers additional information represented by sleep rings. You can compare your sleep session to your sleep bank, the latter of which is based on your target nightly sleep goal.

To modify this goal, tap “Settings” in the bottom-right corner, and then, in the “Configure” section, tap “Set Goals.” There are four settings you can alter: “Overall Sleep Goal,” “Quality,” “Nocturnal Dip,” and “Deep.”

Tap "Set Goals."

You can also set up notifications. Tap “Settings,” and then tap “Notifications.” You can change the time your daily notifications appear, force notifications to wait until you unlock your iPhone, or disable notifications altogether.

Tap "Notifications."

The “Reminders” feature simply nags you about your bedtime. To set reminders, tap “Settings,” and then tap “Reminders.” You can set reminders for 10, 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes.

Tap "Reminders."

Finally, you can adjust the app’s sleep/wake detection level. Tap “Settings” in the app, and then tap “Sleep/Wake Calibration.”

There are 10 sensitivity levels. Level 1 detects less sleep and more wake time, while Level 10 detects more sleep and less wake time. You can adjust the sensitivity over time, so the app accurately detects your sleep sessions.

Tap "Sleep/Wake Calibration."

If you want to see how long it takes you to fall asleep, AutoSleep includes a “Lights Off” feature. The Apple Watch app provides an on-device report about your previous night’s sleep session, including duration, quality, and readiness.

Use the Digital Crown to scroll down to the end of this report, and then tap “Lights Off.” Tap "Lights Off."

Tap “Lights Off” again on the following screen to begin.

The "Lights Off" option in the AutoSleep app on an Apple Watch.

Overall, AutoSleep provides loads of information about your sleep sessions. Tap “Clock” in the app’s toolbar at the bottom. Here, you can tap the plus (+) or minus (-) signs to teach the app how to detect your sleep and awake times.

Tap "Clock."

This opens a new screen with 12 calibrations, and the one that’s highlighted is currently in use.

The "Asleep" calibration under "Clock."

Scroll down, and you’ll find a tool to change your sleep day. This leads you back to the Wizard, where you already set your bedtime hour. Again, this stops at midnight, so there’s no way to set the correct time if you don’t hit the bed until 2 a.m.

The "Sleep Reporting" screen in the AutoSleep app.

Tap “History” if you want to see your sleep patterns over time. You’ll also see sleep ratings, day-to-day sleep quality, and more.

Tap "History."

If the app doesn’t detect your sleep sessions correctly, tap “Day/Edit” to edit them manually.

Tap "Day/Edit."

Here are the HealthKit permissions you need to see a full report:

  • Write:
    • “Sleep Analysis”
  • Read:
    • “Active Energy”
    • “Environmental Sound Levels”
    • “Heart Rate”
    • “Heart Rate Variability”
    • “Mindful Minutes”
    • “Sleep Analysis”

The Sleep++ App

If you don’t mind advertisements, you can download and use the Sleep++ app for free. If you prefer an ad-free experience, tap the white gear icon in the top-left corner of the app to open its Settings menu. Scroll down to the “Support Sleep++” section and pay $1.99.

Tap the white gear icon to open the Sleep++ app Settings menu.

Sleep++ isn’t quite as involved as AutoSleep in terms of features. Each morning, you see a new card on the app’s main screen with details about your sleep the previous night. This data includes percentages regarding awake time, restlessness, and restful sleep. You also see the times at which the resting period began and ended, and the hours and minutes of sleep you got.

The bar graph’s vertical, solid dark blue lines (shown below) represent restful sleep. Vertical light blue lines represent restless periods, while horizontal light blue lines represent periods when the app believes you’re awake. Vertical solid black lines simply mean there’s no data for that period.

A session card in the Sleep++ app.

Tap the card to expand your sleep report. If the app didn’t record your sleep and wake times correctly, tap “Adjust Night” in the bottom-right corner. A vertical slider with two notches appears so you can correct the times.

Tap "Adjust Night" to update your sleep times.

Overall, with the exception of permissions, you don’t have to set anything manually to get started. “Automatic Sleep Tracking” is enabled by default, but you can go to the app’s settings to toggle-Off this option.

The "Automatic Sleep Tracking" toggle in the Sleep++ app.

If you disable automatic tracking, you have to tap “Start Manual Night” in the Sleep++ app on your Apple Watch before you go to sleep. The first time you tap this, the app requests permission to access your motion and fitness activity; tap “OK” or “Don’t Allow.”

Tap "OK" to give the Sleep++ app permission to access your motion and fitness activity.

When you wake up the next morning, tap “Stop Sleeping” in the app on your Watch to stop tracking, as shown below.

Tap "Start Manual Night" to start sleep tracking, and then tap "Stop Sleeping" to end sleep tracking.

Here are some other settings you can alter in the Sleep++ app on your iPhone or iPad:

  • “Morning Sleep Summary”: Toggle-On this feature to see a notification when you first unlock your iPhone each morning.
  • “Save Data to Health App”: If you want to save your sleep info in your iPhone’s Health database, toggle-On this option.
  • “Nightly Sleep Goal”: You can use this slider to alter this setting between five and 12 hours, in 15-minute increments.
  • “Bedtime Reminder Notification”: Toggle-On this feature to receive a reminder when it’s bedtime to help you maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • “Export Sleep Data”: Tap this to export your data as a CSV file.

On the app’s main screen, you can tap the Trends button (the bar graph icon at the top-right) to see a report on the duration of your sleep and bedtime consistency scores.

Tap the Trends button.

The “Typical Nights” card displays a bar graph with your overall week-to-week sleep patterns. Tap a day of the week to see how your sleep duration and sleep and wake times vary on that day each week.

The "Typical Nights" bar graph in the Sleep++ app.

Here are the HealthKit permissions you need for a full report:

  • Write:
    • “Sleep Analysis”
  • Read:
    • “Active Energy”
    • “Heart Rate”
    • “Sleep Analysis”
    • “Steps”

The Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker App

Unlike AutoSleep, the data in the Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker doesn’t overload your sleepy eyes first thing in the morning. Instead, you see a circular graph that shows the duration and quality of your sleep. You also see a smaller bar graph with measurements of your awake time, REM, and light and deep sleep states; tap the graph to enlarge it.

The circle and bar graphs on the main screen in the Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker app.

You can only access most of this app’s main features with a subscription so you might prefer either the AutoSleep or Sleep++ apps.

However, if you want to access more features in the Pillow app, you can pay monthly ($4.49), every three months ($9.49), or annually ($27.49).

Here’s what you unlock with a subscription:

  • Complete access to sleep history data and audio recordings
  • Heart rate analysis
  • Sleep statistics and trends
  • The ability to add notes to each sleep session
  • Three nap modes
  • Premium alarms
  • The ability to use a wake-up sound from your iTunes library
  • The ability to link stats to Runkeeper
  • The ability to export data
  • A Snooze Lab with tips, experiments, achievements, and more

To activate the premium features, tap the sleep potion icon in the top-left corner of the app. A screen then appears prompting you to select one of the three subscription options.

Tap the sleep potion icon to get more features.

You can also subscribe by tapping the gear icon in the bottom-left corner of the app. On the following screen, tap “Pillow Premium” under “Premium Features.”

Unfortunately, the annual subscription is the only plan with a seven-day free trial.

Tap the gear icon to subscribe.

To access the setup wizard, tap on the gear icon, and then tap “Setup Wizard.”

Tap "Setup Wizard."

On the first screen, you can enable or disable the “Automatic Sleep Tracking” option, and then tap “Next” to continue.

The "Automatic Sleep Tracking" option in the Pillow app.

The next step is to exclude time. By default, the “24hrs Detection” toggle is on. Toggle-Off this option if you want to change the 12-hour window (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., by default) that prevents sleep detection manually.

Tap “Next” to continue.

The "Automatic Sleep Tracking" options in the Pillow app.

Here, you set the time you want Pillow to send a sleep report notification. If you don’t want a sleep report, toggle-Off this feature, and then tap “Next.”

Select the time you want the app to notify you that your Sleep Report is ready.

Pillow enables time-to-sleep detection by default. Simply toggle-Off this option to disable it. You would use this feature if you go to bed with the intention of sleeping.

Tap “Finish” to complete the wizard.

The "Detect Time to Sleep" toggle in the Pillow app.

To change your sleep goal, tap the gear icon, tap “General Settings,” and then tap “Sleep Goal.” Use the minus (-) and plus (+) signs to alter this setting in one-hour increments.

The “General Settings” panel also features tools to change the microphone sensitivity or which day (Sunday or Monday) starts your week. You can also enable the “Wake Up Mood” and “Sleep Notes” features here, or have Pillow turn off your smartphone screen when the app starts monitoring your sleep.

The "General Settings" menu in the Pillow app.

The sleep potion icon in the top-left corner of the app opens the Snooze Lab. This premium feature includes personalized tips, experiments, achievements, and more. They’re based on your sleep data, so you’ll see new and additional cards appear over time as the app analyzes your sleep patterns.

For example, a “Tip” might suggest you turn off the lights if you’re trying to go to sleep. An “Insight,” on the other hand, might display your optimal sleep time based on your sleep data.

An "Experiment" in the "Snooze Lab."

The calendar icon in the top-right corner of the app allows you to access any sleep sessions you’ve recorded. Unfortunately, you need a subscription to access recorded sleep sessions earlier than the previous night.

Tap the calendar icon to access recorded sleep sessions.

Tap the bell icon in the bottom-right corner to access the alarm options. Here, you can adjust the volume, enable vibrations, or select a specific alarm sound. There’s also a setting called “Smart Wake Up,” which wakes you during your current sleep cycle. You can disable this feature or set it to activate 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes before your set wake time.

Tap the bell icon to set alarms.

The “Sleep Aid” option is a premium feature with 11 sounds you can choose from to play when Pillow determines you’re attempting to sleep. This option is set to “Automatic” by default, and playback ends when Pillow determines you’re asleep.

You can toggle-Off the “Automatic” setting and type the time you want “Sleep Aid” to end. You can set it to play nonstop, or between 15 minutes and two hours.

The alarm settings in the Pillow app.

Finally, you can enable a snooze time between five and 30 minutes. There’s also a “Smart Snooze” option, which determines how many minutes (up to 10) to snooze to prevent you from falling back into a deep sleep.

On Apple Watch, you can also record power naps in Pillow. When you open the app, you see the same sleep session report you see on your iPhone, only it’s more compact. Use the Digital Crown to scroll to the end, and then tap “Settings.”

Use the Digital Crown again to scroll down to “Naps.” You have three options: “Powernap,” “Recovery Nap,” and “Full Cycle Nap.” Select one of these to activate it, and then tap “OK” in the top-left corner.

Tap "Settings," and then select and option from "Naps."

At the top of the main screen, you see the resulting card and a “Start” button. The time you see in the new card depends on which nap mode you chose. A “Powernap” lasts up to 20 minutes, a “Recovery Nap” can stretch up to 45 minutes, and “Full Cycle Nap” can last up to 120 minutes.

Tap “Start” to begin your quick snooze.

Tap "Start."

Remember, when you enable naps, it disables the Watch app’s automatic sleep detection” feature. To reenable it after a nap, use the Digital Crown to scroll down and tap “Settings.” Tap “Automatic,” and then tap “OK.”

Tap "Settings," "Automatic," and then tap "OK."

You can also enable sound recordings on your Apple Watch. While this might seem creepy, recording audio while you sleep can provide clues as to why you’re not sleeping, such as outside noise, thrashing arms, mumbling, a snoring spouse or partner, and so on. If you record audio, though, keep in mind it will consume more battery power on your Watch.

Finally, you can also set an alarm to use Apple Watch haptics or the paired iPhone.

Select "Apple Watch Haptics" or "iPhone Speaker" Alarm.

Here are the HealthKit permissions you need to provide a full report:

  • Write:
    • “Sleep Analysis”
  • Read:
    • “Active Energy”
    • “Heart Rate”
    • “Heart Rate Variability”
    • “Resting Heart Rate”
    • “Sleep Analysis”
    • “Stand Hours”
    • “Walking Heart Rate Average”

Change Permissions

If you need to change permissions for any sleep tracking app, open the “Health” app on your iPhone.

Tap "Health" on your iPhone.

Tap your profile picture in the top-right corner, and your profile settings will appear. Under “Privacy,” tap “Apps.”

Tap "Apps."

Select the app you want to modify, and then toggle-On (green) or -Off (gray) the read and write permissions.

Tap the app you want to modify.

Kevin Parrish Kevin Parrish
Kevin Parrish has been writing online since the mid-1990s. For a decade, he wrote reviews, previews, news, and more covering PC and console gaming. In 2008, he began covering hardware and devices after Tom's Hardware closed its dedicated gaming website. He's published news, reviews, how-to guides, and op-ed pieces on websites like Digital Trends, Android Authority, Tom's Hardware, Tom's Guide, and Maximum PC.
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