Apple Watch screen not dimming during sleep? It’s an easy fix

Sleep mode not dimming screen on Apple Watch

If you love tracking your sleep with your Apple Watch but find that your watch’s screen isn’t dimming or turning off like it used to, you aren’t alone. It recently happened to me after updating to Apple’s latest watchOS.

Suddenly, sleep mode isn’t dimming my watch face or locking the screen, and the bright light from my watch keeps waking me up…and making it harder to get back to sleep.

So, yup. I needed this fixed asap…

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Set your watch’s screen to dim and reduce distractions during your sleep Sleep app settings on Apple Watch

Although it took me a while to figure it out, it was actually a pretty simple settings adjustment. Here’s what worked for me on my Apple Watch running watchOS 8+.

  1. On your Apple Watch, open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap the Sleep app.
  3. Check that you toggled on Turn On at Bedtime. Turn Sleep on at Bedtime Apple Watch
  4. Then scroll down and toggle on Sleep Screen–this setting dims your screen and reduces any distractions coming from your watch or phone. Sleep Screen Settings on Apple Watch
  5. Scroll further down and toggle on Show Time if you want to show the date and time on your Apple Watch when you’re sleeping. If not, toggle this off. other options for sleep settings on apple watch
  6. Continue to scroll down and check that you turned on Sleep Tracking and decide if you want Charging Reminders or not.

If you want to change these settings using your iPhone, open the Health app > Browse. Then tap the Sleep tile. Scroll all the way down and tap Options

Another option if you schedule your bedtime is to turn on Apple’s Wind Down feature.

Wind Down automatically reduces distractions before your scheduled bedtime and turns on sleep mode so that your watch display turns off and Do Not Disturb turns on.

How to use Sleep’s Wind Down Apple Watch Sleep app

You can only add a Wind Down if you toggle on Sleep Schedule and have a set sleep schedule.

  1. On your watch, open the Sleep app
  2. Scroll down and tap Full Schedule. Full Schedule for Sleep app on Apple Watch
  3. Verify that Sleep Schedule is on and that you see a listed schedule below it. Apple Watch Sleep app Options
  4. Scroll down to the Options section and tap Wind Down
  5. Tap the plus and minus icons to choose a Wind Down duration in 15-minute intervals. Wind Down settings for Sleep app on Apple Watch
  6. Once set, your watch’s screen dims and eventually turns off before your scheduled bedtime and engages the sleep focus mode (do not disturb for sleep) to reduce other distractions, like notifications. 

You can also change these settings using your iPhone, open Settings > Focus > Sleep. Go to a listed sleep schedule and tap Schedule and Options. Find Wind Down under the section Additional Details.

If you want to control your Sleep Focus using Control Center, do not turn on Wind Down. If it’s already on, change the duration to zero to turn it off.

Wind downs only work on days when you schedule your sleep. So if you set a sleep schedule for the workweek but not on weekends, you’ll only have wind downs on weekdays.

Is your Apple Watch still not dimming its screen when tracking your sleep and using the sleep focus?

If you turned on the Sleep Screen option and also tried a Wind Down, but your watch’s screen continues to randomly turn on during the night and when sleeping, try these additional troubleshooting steps.

Disable sleep on your watch and re-enable it

  1. Open the Settings app and choose Sleep.
  2. Scroll down, and tap Don’t Use This Watch for Sleep. Don't use this Apple Watch for sleep tracking
  3. Confirm you don’t want to use the watch for sleep.
  4. Wait a few moments, then tap Use This Watch for Sleep. Use this Apple Watch to track sleep
  5. Scroll down and verify that you toggled on all the features you want. 

Toggle sleep tracking off and on

  • Open the Settings app, choose Sleep, and scroll down to turn sleep tracking off. Wait a few moments and toggle it back on.

Delete all sleep schedules and add them back

  1. Open the Sleep app on your Apple Watch and choose Full Schedule. Tap a listed schedule, then scroll all the way down and select Delete Schedule to remove that existing schedule. Delete sleep schedule on Apple Watch
  2. Repeat for all listed schedules.
  3. Once you remove all sleep schedules, tap Set Your First Schedule and choose your wake up and bedtimes and select any alarms if desired. Apple Watch Sleep app set your first schedule for sleep tracking

You can also delete your sleep schedules in the Health app on your iPhone. Tap Browse > Sleep > Full Schedule & Options. Tap Edit for the schedule you want to remove and choose Delete Schedule at the bottom of the screen. Repeat for any additional sleep schedules, then tap Done. Then tap the Add button and enter your sleep schedules again.

Want your watch to dim or turn off its screen but need certain notifications?

If you want specific alerts, phone calls, text messages, and other notifications to come through even at nighttime and when sleeping, you’ll want to adjust your Sleep Focus settings.

Customize your Sleep Focus to allow important notifications and phone calls from people and apps important to you. On your iPhone, go to Settings  > Focus > Sleep. 

Scroll to the section ALLOWED NOTIFICATIONS and tap People and Apps to make changes. Sleep Focus iPhone and Apple Watch allowed notification settings

Only contacts and apps listed are allowed to display on your watch and iPhone when you activate the sleep focus. For everyone else and the rest of your apps, your Sleep Focus filters out notifications and phone calls, and signals that you’re not available at this time.

Wrap up

Hopefully, your Apple Watch is now tracking sleep and dimming or turning off its screen, so you aren’t distracted at night or, worse, wake up because of your watch’s bright screen.

If these tips didn’t do the trick for you, or if something else did, let us know so we can pay it forward.

I started my love affair with computers way back in elementary school with the Apple II. Since then, I've worked with technology in my career as a media educator and videomaker. I have an MFA in media making from Temple University, where I also taught undergrads as an adjunct faculty member. So I know a thing or two about teaching others and creating how-to guides! After a cancer diagnosis, I turned to mobile technology like my Apple Watch to help me monitor my health throughout my chemotherapy treatment and later, to regain my wellness once in remission. I love sharing how to understand and use mobile tech, like smartwatches and phones, as a tool for empowerment to live our best and healthiest lives!

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