How to add au­to­matic sleep track­ing to your Ap­ple Watch

While we wait for a built-in so­lu­tion, the Pillow and Au­tosleep apps are your best choices for adding sleep track­ing to your Ap­ple Watch.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY JASON CROSS

The Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 4 ( go. mac­ is a fan­tas­tic up­grade to Ap­ple’s wrist-wear­able ac­ces­sory, but it’s still miss­ing a key com­pet­i­tive fea­ture: sleep track­ing. Each year, we hope the new ver­sion of watchos will add in­te­grated sleep track­ing, and each year we’re dis­ap­pointed.

For­tu­nately, a num­ber of third-party ap­pli­ca­tions pick up the slack. Af­ter try­ing quite a few, we think the best two are Au­tosleep and Pillow. They’re re­li­able, at­trac­tive, in­for­ma­tive, and best of all, they track sleep au­to­mat­i­cally. All you need to do is wear your Ap­ple Watch to bed.


Price: $2.99 from go.mac­

Au­tosleep’s pri­mary pur­pose is right there in the name: au­to­matic sleep track­ing. It’s made ex­clu­sively for your Ap­ple Watch, and it re­ally doesn’t work at all with­out it.

Just wear your Ap­ple Watch while you sleep—you’ll prob­a­bly want to en­able The­ater Mode ( go.mac­ to keep it from light­ing up—and you’ll get a no­ti­fi­ca­tion with your sleep re­port the fol­low­ing day.

If you want to charge your Watch overnight, just put it on the charger right when you go to bed and stop charg­ing it im­me­di­ately when you wake up. Au­tosleep will use the charge time as a proxy for sleep time, but you won’t get any de­tails about your qual­ity of sleep or heart rate.

The in­ter­face is a lit­tle hard to fig­ure out thanks to ex­ces­sive mimicry of Ap­ple’s ac­tiv­ity rings, but you’ll find a lot of great in­for­ma­tion once you poke around.

You’ll get in­for­ma­tion on when you went to sleep and when you woke up, to­tal sleep time, amount of time spent in deep sleep, how much “qual­ity” sleep you got, and your heart rate.

Drill down fur­ther and you can find out how any one night’s sleep com­pares to your av­er­ages, and there’s a great log of ev­ery night recorded.

Setup re­quires com­plet­ing a wizard that asks about your sleep habits, in­clud­ing the time at which you want to start record­ing a new day’s sleep. Af­ter all, you don’t want to go to bed at 10 p.m., sleep for eight hours, then have the app count the first two hours of sleep on one day and the next six hours on the next.

I found that I had to fid­dle with the sleep track­ing sen­si­tiv­ity a bit to get read­ings that I thought were ac­cu­rate, but that’s easy enough to do. You get five set­tings from Very Still to Very Rest­less,

and one of them is bound to match your av­er­age sleep ac­tiv­ity level.

Au­tosleep pro­vides a nice watch com­pli­ca­tion that sup­ports the new Se­ries 4 watch faces (in­clud­ing cor­ner com­pli­ca­tions), but it doesn’t sup­port the new large cen­ter com­pli­ca­tion on the In­fo­graph Mod­u­lar face. The watch app it­self is clear and easy to read, and the rings in­ter­face makes a lit­tle more sense there. There’s even a handy Lights Off but­ton that works with Homekit-en­abled lights.

It’s a good deal at $2.99, and for a long time was my fa­vorite sleep-track­ing app for Ap­ple Watch.


Price: Free from go.mac­

Au­tosleep’s top spot has been slightly edged out by Pillow, thanks to a few fea­tures added in re­cent up­dates. Pillow is made to track sleep for any­one with an iphone—by plac­ing it on your mat­tress, an iffy propo­si­tion if you share a bed—but we’ll fo­cus on its Ap­ple Watch func­tion­al­ity here.

Pillow’s main in­ter­face shows a cou­ple of sleep ac­tiv­ity rings, fol­lowed by a sim­pli­fied chart of your last night’s sleep. Tap that chart and you get more de­tailed info, in­clud­ing your to­tal time asleep and a mea­sure­ment of your sleep qual­ity. You can see what per­cent­age of your sleep time was spent awake, in light sleep, in REM sleep, and in deep sleep.

Turn­ing your phone side­ways to land­scape ori­en­ta­tion changes the view to show de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about a bunch of your sleep data over time. It’s all pre­sented in sim­ple and clear ver­ti­cal bar charts.

Pillow’s got a few other handy fea­tures, too. It will record noises at night while you

sleep, and you can lis­ten to them later in or­der to see if you’ve been snor­ing or if it was the cat that woke you up. It can sug­gest times to go to bed based on your sleep stats to make sure you get enough qual­ity sleep, and play sounds that might help you fall asleep. It has an alarm mode that will wake you up dur­ing the most op­por­tune part of your sleep cy­cle be­fore you have to get up.

Some of these fea­tures don’t work when you’re us­ing the Ap­ple Watch’s auto-de­tec­tion mode, which is a shame. But even with­out them, it is more or less a fea­ture-for-fea­ture match for Au­tosleep.

The Watch app does a lit­tle bit bet­ter job than Au­tosleep of match­ing the aes­thetic of Ap­ple’s own watch apps. A re­cent up­date also added sup­port for the whole range of Se­ries 4 com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing cor­ner com­pli­ca­tions for the In­fo­graph face and the large cen­ter graph on the In­fo­graph Mod­u­lar face.

Pillow is tech­ni­cally free, but it’s re­ally not of much use with­out the $4.99 in-app pur­chase. With­out that, you get a very lim­ited sleep his­tory, which re­ally de­feats the pur­pose of know­ing if you got a bet­ter night’s sleep than usual.


Au­tosleep and Pillow are both ex­cel­lent choices. Nei­ther one is free (Pillow’s in-app pur­chase is all but re­quired), but nei­ther is ex­pen­sive. Per­haps most im­por­tantly, both Au­tosleep and Pillow are one-time pur­chases; in this age of sub­scrip­tion­based apps, it’s nice to just buy some­thing and own it.

Both apps gave me sim­i­lar data about to­tal sleep time, but their reports for how much “good” sleep I got or how long I spent in deep sleep were of­ten wildly dif­fer­ent. I get the feel­ing that they sim­ply have dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions of these things. What is more im­por­tant is that they’re both pretty con­sis­tent, at least once you set them up prop­erly and you’ve given the learn­ing heuris­tics a week or two to fig­ure out your sleep pat­terns.

I found Pillow’s ba­sic in­for­ma­tion to be pre­sented in a more ap­peal­ing and easy-to-un­der­stand for­mat, and its Ap­ple Watch app and no­ti­fi­ca­tions are great. I like Au­tosleep’s charts for de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, but I hon­estly rarely drill down that deep. Pillow’s daily sleep sum­mary no­ti­fi­ca­tion in­cludes a lit­tle graph, which I ap­pre­ci­ate.

For­tu­nately, there’s no real rea­son not to run both of them. The im­pact on bat­tery life is min­i­mal—the apps are ba­si­cally just tak­ing the Watch’s his­tory of move­ment and heart rate data and pro­cess­ing that— so it’s not as if ei­ther app has to be

“ac­tive” while you sleep. I suc­cess­fully used both for sev­eral weeks, and never had any prob­lem with bat­tery life on my 40mm Se­ries 4. A cou­ple hours of charg­ing in the evening is all I needed to track sleep that night and use my watch the fol­low­ing day.

We still think Ap­ple should pro­vide its own sleep track­ing in watchos 6. Given all the ways Ap­ple is us­ing ma­chine learn­ing to build ac­tiv­ity pro­files, fall de­tec­tion, and more, sleep track­ing seems like a nat­u­ral fit. But un­til that hap­pens, you can get a great third-party al­ter­na­tive for just a few bucks with ei­ther Au­tosleep or Pillow. ■

Au­tosleep’s in­ter­face is a lit­tle con­fus­ing at first, but is full of use­ful data.

Au­tosleep’s Watch in­ter­face is clear, but doesn’t quite look like a stan­dard Ap­ple Watch app.

Pillow’s app in­ter­face is more friendly than Au­tosleep’s, but it doesn’t pro­vide as much data.

Pillow’s Watch app looks al­most like some­thing Ap­ple would make.

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