So sleep is one of the most important things we need as it touches every part of our health. Whilst you are sleeping, your body supports healthy brain function and physical health. It is needed to repair our bodies, develop immunity, and fight diseases.
Why track your sleep
Sleep tracking allows you to monitor your sleep patterns, which can help you see if you are getting good-quality sleep or not. Sleep Tracking can also help
- Provide insight into what can impact your sleep
- Help identify lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep quality
And this is where the Apple Watch comes in and for me personally the Apple Watch Ultra. Using the Apple Watch Ultra allows me to track my sleep patterns and helps me make some informed decisions on my sleep as well as also being my fitness tracker. So let’s just into some more detail. Setting up sleep tracking on the Apple Watch.
Setting up sleep tracking on the Apple Watch Ultra
It is very straightforward to set up sleep tracking on your watch. All you need to do is go into the setting in the watch app on your iPhone and under sleep, you will have the option to track sleep with Apple Watch. You just need to toggle that on and your watch will start tracking your sleep.
Another useful option under sleep in the watch app is charging reminders, I have this turned on as it will remind me if my watch needs to be charged before I go to bed so I don’t miss out on a night of tracking.
Sleep Data Collected by the Apple Watch Ultra
The Apple Watch collects a fair bit of data when you are sleeping such as:
- Sleep stages
- Time spent asleep
- Heart Rate
- Respiratory Rate
- Temperature (series 8 or Ultra)
Let’s go into each of these in a bit more detail into each of these data points.
Being able to see the sleep stages is something that came in with WatchOS9 and I really enjoy being able to track how long you spend in each of the sleep stages.
The Apple Watch uses a combination of motion tracking and heart rate monitoring to track your sleep patterns. It can detect when you are in a state of deep sleep, light sleep, and when you are awake. The watch uses this information to provide a breakdown of your sleep data in the Health app on your iPhone.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
- Deep sleep
Time Spent Asleep
On your watch and your phone, you will see the time asleep and this gives you the total time that you have been asleep throughout the night. Your Apple Watch will automatically detect when you have fallen asleep and when you wake in the morning which is the total amount asleep.
This is a nice quick overview to see if you have gotten enough sleep the night before and you can make take that information into your day e.g. if you are rested enough to exercise. As mentioned before you with WatchOS9 you can go into more detail which details the time in a stage as outlined in the paragraph above
The Apple Watch will also track your Heart Rate whilst you are asleep. This is needed as it helps to indicate when you are asleep. You can also see how your heart rate has varied throughout the night and whether it is consistent under sleep on your iPhone.
I like being able to see this as I find that this is one of the main things that is affected the most when I drink alcohol for instance. I knew it wasn’t great for your sleep but seeing the effect in from of your eyes in your sleep tracking devices really makes you think.
Your watch will track how many breaths you are taking in a minute throughout the night. Again this data is stored under sleep on your iPhone.
Your Respiratory rate will go down when you are asleep so this will contribute to understanding what sleep cycle you are in during the night. This is also useful information to have as if you have a high respiratory rate (the average is between 12-20 breaths) whilst sleeping it may indicate that you need to check in with your doctor.
Body Temperature Sensor
The new Apple watch series now have a body temperature sensor so you are able to track your body temperature. This is not strictly part of the sleep tracking but I wanted to include it as it is something that I like to keep track of.
In the watch app on your phone, you will see Temperature and in there you will see how your temperature has fluctuated from the baseline. I find this useful as it highlights when I might be getting sick but also so shows the impact of certain activities e.g. Alcohol or eating junk food on the body.
Using the Apple Watch Ultra for Improving Sleep Habits
There is a lot of data collected and I would say that you should use this as a guide and not get to hung up on the stats. Although the data points are great they are not 100% accurate so you should take them with somewhat a pinch of salt.
For me, I want to see how much sleep I am getting and how long I am spending in each of those different sleep stages. I will then look at the other data to see if something that I have done the previous day has had a negative impact on my sleep duration.
I do wish that like other fitness trackers and sleep trackers the Apple Watch provided you with a sleep score and also a readiness score within the native watch app. This would be really helpful in understanding your sleep quality at a glance. Now you can get third-party apps for the apple watch that will give you these additional sleep tracking capabilities.
Setting a bedtime routine
I love that on most smartwatches and smartphones, you can set a bedtime routine. I personally find that the bedtime routine on the watch and iPhone is the easiest and most useful I have found.
As I have mentioned it’s really easy to set up a sleep schedule in the health app on your iPhone. You simply go it the full scheduled option and from here you can add or edit your current schedule. For me I have my bedtime set for 10 pm and wake up is 7 am (I have a small human so no late nights for me) with no alarm.
You can also set when you want your wind-down time to start mine is set for 30 min before bedtime but you can set it to what suits you. I also set my sleep goal which is 8hrs. Setting a wind-down time is great as it will go into your sleep focus and will block out notifications etc. You can still amend your sleep focus mode to let certain notifications and for certain people to be able to contact you.
Third Party Apps
I thought I would share the third party apps that I use in order to get more information about my sleep quality which you will not get as standard from Apple.
This is the app that I use to see what my sleep quality score is for the evening. Like your watch sleep cycle calculates your sleep quality score using a number of factors such as
- time spent asleep
- Movements during the night
- Moments when you are fully awake
this then produces an overall sleep score that you can see in the journal tab of the app, you will also be able to see how long it took you to fall asleep. This is paid app which is frustrating as I feel this is something that Apple could easily introduce as part of their sleep tracking experience.
I have not been using this app for that long so still coming to grips with it. The reason that I wanted to look at this app was that it gives you a recovery score, so are you ready to train or should you take it a bit easier for that day.
based on your recovery score it will give you suggested workouts and how long to train for based on your previous night’s sleep. You can also look at your trends to make informed decisions on what’s impacting your recovery and make changes to enhance your recovery.
So this is will vary depending on which apple watch series you are using. When I was using my series 7 I would generally get a day out of the battery which meant that I would not use it all the time as a sleep tracking device because I would tend to charge it overnight ready to track my activity the following day.
Now I have the Apple Watch Ultra I am getting 2 days’ worth of battery life so I use it for sleep tracking every day as I am less restricted to when I need to charge the device. I have also found that it charges a lot quicker than my series 7 did so I can quickly charge it whilst in the shower and getting ready for the day.
I have really enjoyed my sleep tracking experience with the Apple Watch Ultra and it certainly adds to it as a fitness tracker as well as a smartwatch. I think that being more aware of our sleep hygiene is really important as sleep plays such an important role in our overall health.
I would smartwatch are not the most accurate sleep trackers but they are not bad at all and gives you a good level of information to help you improve your sleep and your health in general.
The main thing that I would like to see from Apple going forward is removing the need to install third party apps for things like sleep and readiness scores as it clearly has the capabilities to provide this information.
So all in all I find the Apple Watch Ultra is a great device for tracking my sleep and has helped me change the way that I look at and approach sleep. I would highly recommend that if you have one or are thinking of getting one you turn on sleep tracking.