How to track your sleep with an Apple Watch

With the latest update, the Apple Watch has a built-in sleep tracker to monitor and record your sleeping patterns. Here's how to use it.

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Image: iStock/demaerre

Insomnia is a common problem, especially these days with worries about the coronavirus, politics, and the economy. A lack of sufficient sleep can affect not just your personal life but your professional one. It's difficult to concentrate on work and be productive without a healthy and consistent number of hours of sleep each night. But how can you tell the amount of sleep you're actually getting?

SEE: Apple Watch Series 6: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic) 

One way to investigate your sleep is through sleep tracking. And with iOS 14 and watchOS 7, you can do that through a built-in sleep tracker on the Apple Watch.

As you wear your watch at night, the tracker records the actual time you're asleep and how much total sleep you get. The next morning, the Sleep app shows you the periods of sleep time during the night and keeps a daily and weekly record of your sleep pattern. Here's how it works.

Sleep tracking on an Apple Watch requires a Series 3, 4, 5, or 6 with watchOS 7 or higher, and an iPhone 6S or later with iOS 14 or higher. Confirm those requirements. Open the Watch app on your phone. Make sure you're in the My Watch section and tap the entry for Sleep where you can set up different options.

  1. The first option for Turn On Automatically simplifies your Lock screen and turns on Do Not Disturb mode so you can wind down before bedtime.
  2. The second option for Show Time turns off the display of the date and time during sleeping hours.
  3. The third option for Track Sleep with Apple Watch tells your watch to monitor your sleep.
  4. The fourth option for Charging Reminders tells you when your watch is fully charged before bedtime.

Turn on all of the switches to enable these options (Figure A).

Figure A

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Next, tap the link to Open Sleep Options to go to the Health app. Turn on the switch for Sleep Schedule. Tap the Edit link under Full Schedule and set the regular times you go to sleep and wake up. You can set different times for different days, for example, one for weekdays and another for weekends.

Under Additional Details, select the entry for Sleep Goal to set the number of hours and minutes for which you'd like to be asleep.

  1. Select the entry for Wind Down to determine the amount of time for winding down before sleep.
  2. Select the entry for Wind Down Shortcuts to set up any shortcuts you'd like to apply during Wind Down time.
  3. Select the entry for Options to confirm the options you set in the Sleep app and to set up additional ones (Figure B).

Figure B

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Open the Sleep app on your watch and select the schedule. At the next screen, tap the Wake Up time if you need to change it. Turn on an alarm if you require one to wake you up at the right time. Select the time for Bedtime to change that as well.

Return to the main screen. Select Full Schedule to turn off your Sleep Schedule for any specific nights or all nights. You can also add a schedule and change your sleep goal or Wind Down time. Make sure your watch is sufficiently charged to last the night and then wear your watch to bed (Figure C).

Figure C

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The next morning, check the Sleep app on your watch to see how much sleep you got. Then open the Health app on your iPhone for more details. Go to the Browse screen and select the entry for Sleep. The bar graphs display your start and end times for sleep. As you record multiple nights of sleep, the data will reveal your history on a weekly or monthly basis.

Select the bar for a specific day to see the total amount of time you were asleep. Select the entry to Show More Sleep Data. Here, you can see how many nights of sleep were measured, your sleep goal, your average time in bed, and your average time asleep (Figure D).

Figure D

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