What it does and how to use it


(Cybertech) – In the new watchOS 7 update, Apple enables you to track sleep using the Apple Watch.

We’ve been trying it out on an early (beta) version of the software for a while, so here’s how to use it along with a few thoughts on how it works. 

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 Apple Watch to track your sleep, so you’ll need to change your charging behaviour and juice up in the day. If you don’t, you’ll end up with no charge at 10am the next morning. 

The good thing about Apple Watch sleep tracking 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 (that feature is 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 afterwards. 

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 to go through the night if you charged for a bit during the day at some point. With Series 3, you will need to fully charge in the day to last the night. 

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 if you want, but this won’t track sleep. You can also opt out of sleep tracking entirely, even if you have Sleep Mode enabled. 

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. 

The results you get 

Apple’s sleep tracking concentrates on 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 distant past. It’ll know you’re not asleep if you’re awake in bed and on your iPhone. 

If you want to look at the results of your sleep, go to Browse > Sleep in the Health app. You can then tap any of the options at the bottom to see graphics that reflect that goal or result. You can also broaden out the graph to view a month at a time. 


You can zone in on a particular day’s result and find out more details – although this will only give you time in bed and time asleep which appear at the top of the screen above the column in question along with the date. 


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.

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! 

Corrections – [23/09/2020] 23/09/20: Added clarification to the paragraph which said tracking can work if sleep mode is off.

Writing by Dan Grabham.


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