How to track your sleep using Apple Watch or iPhone using third-party apps

woman sleeping with phone next to her

For the longest time, the one wellness feature that the Apple Watch was missing was a sleep tracker. Apple introduced the Apple Sleep feature with WatchOS 7 and more advanced sleep tracking with watchOS 9.

Unfortunately, this update did not apply to older Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 or for folks with iPhones but without Apple Watches.

And that’s where third-party sleeping apps come in!

Related reading

Apple’s version of a sleep tracker is pretty minimal but getting better sleep stages on Apple Watch

The good news is that Apple really improved sleep tracking with watchOS 9 by adding sleep stages. And these changes might be enough that you don’t need a third-party sleep-tracking app.

First, there is no Apple Sleep app for your iPhone–it’s for Apple Watch only, and you must use at least a Series 3 that runs watchOS 8 to get the app. For sleep stages (like REM or Deep sleep tracking), you need a Series 4+ watch that runs watchOS 9+.

Apple uses information from your watch’s accelerometer and heart rate sensor to gather sleep data, and that’s why you only get this data when you own and wear an Apple Watch when sleeping.

With watchOS 9 and iOS 16, you also see your sleep stages for times awake and in these three separate stages: REM, Core, or Deep sleep.

  • Awake includes the time it takes you to fall asleep, as well as anytime you wake up during your sleep session.
  • REM is rapid eye movement sleep, and it’s the time when you are actively dreaming in your sleep. REM sleep usually starts after 90 minutes or so after starting sleep.
  • Core sleep is also called light sleep and is the stage when muscle activity lowers and body temperature drops. Most of your sleep is core sleep; hence why Apple calls it core rather than light sleep.
  • Deep sleep is slow-wave sleep, where you are deeply relaxed. This is the stage when your body repairs and restores itself. Deep sleep usually lasts the least and occurs primarily in the first half of sleep.
Users see sleep stage data on Apple Watch in the Sleep app and view more detailed information in the Health app.

You set your sleep schedules in the Sleep or Health app, and you track your sleep data mainly in the Health app.

apple's sleep tracker app on the apple watch
Apple’s version of a sleep tracker gets a separate app in the Apple Watch, but not on the iPhone.

In the sleep section of the Health app, you can track sleep stats sleep stages info in Apple Health app

  • Including how much time you spend in bed, your sleep time stats, and your heart rate.
  • Time spent in different sleep stages (watchOS 9+ feature.)
  • You can also set sleep goals, analyze your sleep highlights, and review your sleep schedule. 
  • Additional metrics, like sleeping heart rate and sleeping respiratory rate, and sleep comparison charts. Apple Watch Ultra and Series 8+ models track nightly changes in your wrist (body) temperature.

To learn more about Apple’s Sleep app for Apple Watch, see this Apple support guide.

At this time, Apple does not offer a sleep score like many of its competitors. So if you like getting a sleep score, there are several third-party sleeping apps you can download instead.

Apple even gives you suggestions in the Health app of what other sleep apps you can download from the Apple Store. 

So today, we’re going to focus on three different supplemental sleep-tracking apps. Those three apps are AutoSleep, Pillow, and Sleep ++.

Track your sleep with AutoSleep (a one-time paid app)

the autosleep app on apple watch
The AutoSleep app for the Apple Watch displays your alarms, sleep time, sleep quality, and more.

AutoSleep by Tantsissa dives deep into your sleep with its in-depth data, analyzing your sleep, sleep quality, heart rate, deep sleep, and more.

In fact, there’s so much data offered that it can feel very overwhelming, especially at first. There’s so much to this app that they created a user guide!

You can set sleep goals, sleep reminders, and smart alarms.

One great feature of this app is that it can track your sleep with or without your Apple Watch.

Plus, AutoSleep works with older iPhones and Apple Watches, requiring iOS 11+ and watchOS 4+.

AutoSleep Track Sleep on Watc‪h Sleep Summary
AutoSleep shows you an excellent summary of your sleep plus rates you with a sleep score

AutoSleep tracks your sleep quality by noting your time asleep, restlessness, time awake, and heart rate.

It also offers opportunities for personalization. You can tweak the app to best fit and match your sleeping needs. 

AutoSleep color ratings explained
Your data is in four different rings, which track Today’s Sleep, Quality Sleep, Heart Rate Dip, and Deep Sleep.

The app is visually appealing and displays your sleep data similarly to Apple’s Fitness tracker app.

The rings use red, yellow, green, and blue to let you know how your sleep looks and if you’re meeting your sleep goals.

  • Blue means your results are outstanding!
  • Green means you reached your goal.
  • Yellow means you can improve.
  • Red means there’s a lot of room for improvement.

It even gives you a score based on your quality of sleep.

It has some fun features too!

You can track your mood when you wake up by selecting an emoji that closely relates to your feelings, like the sleepy emoji or the coffee emoji.

Auto sleep also pairs with the Breathe app on your Apple Watch.

After using the app for about a week, you’ll be able to see your sleep trends.

AutoSleep gives you a recommendation on what you can improve on, like your bedtime consistency or sleep efficiency.

How accurate is AutoSleep?

AutoSleep is pretty accurate. The app pretty much matches the data from the Apple Sleep app.

It just provides a lot more insight into the quality of sleep you get each night.

If it doesn’t seem to be recording accurate data for you, try customizing the settings with the setup wizard to calibrate the best personal settings for you. 

Does AutoSleep track snoring? 

While AutoSleep does not advertise it can track snoring, the app can track environmental noise. However, the snoring feature only works for Apple Watches that are Series 4 and above. 

AutoSleep cost

At the time of writing, the AutoSleep sleep tracking app is ranked #3 in the Health & Fitness section in the App Store.

It costs $3.99, but the app’s price covers everything included in the app. You won’t find any options for in-app purchases or subscription services. 

Keep tabs on your sleep with Pillow (free and subscription plans)

the pillow app for apple watch
The Pillow app for the Apple Watch tracks your time asleep each day.

There are a lot of things that users love about Pillow’s sleep tracking app.

First, you can even use Pillow without an Apple Watch by placing your iPhone or iPad on the mattress near your pillow. 

And its smart sleep assistant can analyze your sleep while you wear your Apple Watch or without it. 

Second, Pillow’s sleep analysis also records audio during sleep and combines this information with heart rate and motion analysis to show you what’s really going on with your sleep.

Finally, unlike many sleep apps out there, you can track your naps with Pillow!

track your naps with Pillow sleep app for Apple Watch, iPhone, and iPad
With Pillow, you can track your naps too!

Pillow tracks a lot of your sleep data, and with manual mode, it tracks things like sleep disturbances such as snoring, sleep apnea, and sleep talking.

Currently, the Pillow app offers both a very-limited free version and a robust premium paid subscription version that has the most wanted features. 

Pillow offers a lot of features

Pillow premium subscription plan offers a detailed sleep analysis report
Subscribe to Pillow’s premium plan to get detailed reports on your sleep patterns and behaviors
  • It can analyze your sleep cycle, heart rate, and sleep stages (awake, REM, light, and deep sleep.)
  • It also can do audio recordings to track any snoring, sleep apnea, or sleep talking.
  • And it can also keep track of your sleep habits and gives you personalized insight and tips.
  • It even has sleep aids like guided meditations, sleep stories, sound scenes, and music.
  • There is even a smart alarm clock. 
  • Offer iPhone widget (iOS 14+) and Apple Watchface complications.
  • Works with Watch, iPhone, or iPad (use manual sleep tracking mode to track your sleep with an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.)
  • Syncs with the Apple Health app.
  • Requires iOS 13.0, and for Apple Watches, watchOS 6.0 or later.

That’s pretty amazing!

However, you need a premium subscription to unlock most of these features.

Free plan features for Pillow sleep app on Apple Watch
Pillow’s free plan is limited to your sleep hours and quality for a single night.

Without a subscription, the app is very minimal. All you can do is get a limited daily sleep analysis and an alarm clock.

  • The free plan’s day’s worth of data only includes time asleep and sleep quality.

So you can’t even access your overall sleep trends without the subscription. You also have limited access to their sleep aid library.

At this time, Pillow offers a 7-day free trial of the app.

The Pillow’s Premium features that aren’t included in the free plan 

  • Detailed Sleep Analysis, including history for comparisons between days, weeks, months, or even years.
  • Heart rate analysis.
  • Audio recordings.
  • Naps and Duration-based presets.
  • Sleep-related Trends.
  • Compare with Apple Health metrics.
  • Database Export in CSV format.

Pillow offers three payment options for their subscription service:

  1. $6.99 for one month.
  2. $39.99 for one year.

Since both these apps cost money to use, which one is the best?

Well, if getting the most out of the cost price is crucial to you, then AutoSleep is your best bet.

With AutoSleep, you pay the one-time app fee, and you get unlimited access to all of the app’s features.

But Pillow does have a lot of unique features that do peak interest for some individuals. Like the audio recording and sleep-aid library are great additions to the Pillow app.

So if those features call out to you, then Pillow is a good option.

You do need a paid subscription for the Pillow app to be useful.

Is there a good free sleep app? Yes! Let’s look at Sleep ++ (free with ads, paid without ads) sleep tracking on Apple watch with Sleep++ app

Sleep ++ is a free sleep tracking app, and at the time of writing, this app is ranked 188 in the Health and Fitness section of the App Store.

It monitors your sleep quality and duration and includes an automatic or manual mode to record sleep.

Just wear your Apple Watch to bed for automatic mode to work. For manual mode, let Sleep++ know when you are ready to sleep and when you wake up.

the sleep++ apple watch app
The Sleep++ app for the Apple Watch doesn’t display any data; instead, you can switch to manual mode for tracking your sleep.

The app does include ads, but if you wish to remove them, you can pay $1.99. The ads are not annoying and are at the bottom of the page.

While the app doesn’t display your sleep data in a visually appealing way, it does provide great insight. You can see your restful sleep, restlessness, and awake time.  Sleep trends in Sleep++ app on iPhone

The trends section of the app is the most visually appealing.

  • Sleep++ has several charts that display your trends.
  • Tracks sleep in 3 dimensions: awake, restful, and restless.
  • Works with Apple Watch with watchOS 5.2 or later.
  • Sleep++ integrates with your iPhone’s Health App.
  • This includes your sleep time, time for waking up and falling asleep, heart rate, meeting your sleep goal, bedtime consistency, and blood oxygen levels.

And note you can only track your blood oxygen level if you have at least an Apple Watch Series 6. 

Final Thoughts

The Apple Sleep app does the bare minimum, but Apple Watch users want more. Luckily, there are so many different sleep apps you can choose from to get more insight into your sleep. 

AutoSleep is a great, well-rounded choice, and you get your money’s worth when you pay the one-time app fee. 

Pillow has the potential to be a great sleep app. Unfortunately, all of their unique features are locked behind a paywall. If you’re a free user, you’re better off just using the Apple Sleep app instead.

And Sleep ++, that’s the best free sleep app out there. You get pretty much everything you could want in a free sleep-tracking app. 

What do you think of these three sleep-tracking apps? Do you have a favorite sleep app that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments down below.


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