Apple’s own Sleep app has been in the pipeline since first-generation Apple Watch debuted, Apple VP of Technology Kevin Lynch told CNET earlier this week. But as some Apple Watch users saw Fitbit and Garmin wearables supply sleep data, they turned to the watchOS App Store for software of their own.
While the best sleep apps for smartphones strive to help adults get enough shuteye, using a smartwatch or fitness tracker can offer insights that a phone by your bedside cannot. Apple’s upcoming sleep tracking app, for example, will wield the Apple Watch’s built-in accelerometer and heart rate sensor to detect subtle movements that signal respiration while users snooze.
When the public watchOS 7 beta launches later this month, we’ll be going hands-on with the all-new Sleep app to see if our Apple Watch can help us establish better bedtime schedules. We’ll also take a look at how the ‘Wind Down’ feature contributes to a more peaceful transition to dreamland.
Testing the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps
I tried out three different Apple Watch sleep tracking apps currently available in the watchOS App Store. All of them are among the most popular downloads, and ranged in price from free to $30 per year.
These Apple Watch sleep tracking apps offer more metrics than what we expect from Apple’s native version. Based on what we know about the software so far, Apple sleep tracking tells you how many hours of rest you get each night, and differentiates the time you spend in bed versus time you spend asleep. But that’s about it. Some of the existing apps below, meanwhile, provide a catalog of sleep quality statistics, and can even factor in things like the weather of your area.
And for those wondering how we keep our Apple Watch juiced up when we wear it overnight, we offer two charging tips: Dock your watch an hour before you plan on getting into bed, or for an hour first thing the morning. Try out both ways to see which routine works best for you.
We think AutoSleep is the best Apple Watch sleep tracking app for those trying to make sleep tracking a habit. AutoSleep offers notifications that remind you to juice up your Apple Watch before going to sleep to help you get accustomed to a different charging routine. As long as your smartwatch has enough battery to make it through the night, in the morning you’ll be able to see your sleep quality, average heart rate, minutes of deep sleep and more.
Not only did we find AutoSleep’s analysis accurate based on how rested (or not rested) we felt, we liked how it takes a cue from Apple’s Activity rings in terms of UI, too. When you look at your reports from the week, you can see how close you came to meeting your desired sleep goals. For someone who takes rounding out their exercise and stand rings seriously, AutoSleep’s approach might motivate you to get to bed sooner and pay more mind to external factors that could sabotage your sleep quality.
2. Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle is one of the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps because, like Fitbit’s sleep tracking software, it pays attention to your nightly sleep cycles to determine when it should wake you up. Before you go to bed, the Sleep Cycle app asks you to set a 30-minute window in which it can wake you up. Then, when it senses a natural point for you to crawl back to consciousness, it leverages the Apple Watch’s advanced haptics to stir you from your sleep.
A premium Sleep Cycle membership comes at a cost, but unlocks information a sleep tracking enthusiast should find valuable. It compares your Sleep scores against other Sleep Cycle users around the world and lets you take notes of factors that increase or decrease your sleep quality. It even lets you know if your local weather influences how well or poorly you rested when you’ve used the app for an extended period of time.
For those who want one of the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps for free, Sleep++ is the right service for you. It’s a popular choice for automatic sleep detection, and can remind you when it’s time to get to bed if you intend to meet your sleep goals. Sleep++ also provides a graph reporting on when you get your best sleep versus when you’re restless each night.
Sleep++ isn’t as data-heavy as Sleep Cycle or AutoSleep, but the fact that it’s free makes it a good choice for those who are perhaps skeptical of sleep tracking, or are intimidated by things like sleep scores. If you’re going to monitor your sleep with Sleep++, it’s up to you whether you choose to correlate its metrics with other factors in your life. It won’t help you keep tabs on changes you may make, but we found it gets the job done at no cost.
How we tested the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps
We tested the Apple Watch sleep tracking apps above based on user reviews of top-performing choices available on the watchOS App Store. After getting into the routine of charging our Apple Watch first thing the morning or before bed at night, we used each app for several nights (if not longer) to see if the data translated to our perception how much sleep we got and how rested we felt.
Taking accuracy, price and bounty of metrics into consideration, we ordered this list according to how worthwhile each popular sleep tracking app proved.
Of course, when Apple’s native sleep tracking service goes live, we could recommend it before any of the third-party apps above. We’ll have to take it to bed for several nights to judge how reliable and effective the Sleep app is compared to the competition, and Apple’s other health services, too.