What is Apple Watch Sleep

Apple Watch: These sleep monitoring apps

Jason Cross

While we're waiting for an integrated solution, the Pillow and Autosleep apps are your best choices to enable sleep monitoring on your Apple Watch.

EnlargeWith the Apple Watch you can analyze your sleep - but only with the help of third-party apps

The Apple Watch Series 5 brings some advances over the previous model, but Apple has left out one function - sleep monitoring. Every year we hope that the new version of watchOS will bring integrated sleep monitoring - and every year we are disappointed.

Fortunately, a number of third-party applications are addressing the problem. After trying a few, we think the best two apps are Autosleep and Pillow. They are reliable, informative, and most importantly, they automatically track sleep. All you have to do is wear your Apple Watch to bed.


The main purpose of Autosleep is in the name: automatic sleep tracking. The app is developed exclusively for the Apple Watch and does not work without it. Just wear your Apple Watch while you sleep - you'll likely want to turn on Theater Mode so it doesn't light up - and you'll get a notification with your sleep report the next morning.

EnlargeAutoSleep looks a bit confusing at first, but offers a lot of interesting information about your own sleep behavior.
© Screenshot AutoSleep

If you want to charge your watch overnight, just place it on the charger when you go to bed and immediately stop charging it when you wake up. Autosleep uses load time as a guideline for sleep time, but it doesn't give you any details about your sleep quality or heart rate.

The user interface is a little difficult to understand thanks to the over-imitation of Apple's activity rings, but you will find a lot of great information once you get used to the surface. You will receive information about when you fell asleep and when you woke up, the total sleep time, the time you were in deep sleep, what your "sleep quality" was and your heart rate. Keep scrolling down and you can find out how one night's sleep compares to your averages, and there is an extensive log of each night.

EnlargeThe look of the app is based heavily on the rings that are already familiar from Apple.
© Screenshot AutoSleep

Setup requires an assistant to ask about your sleeping habits, including the time you would like to start recording. After all, you don't want to go to bed at 10 p.m., sleep eight hours, then count the first two hours of sleep to the first day and the next six hours to the next day.

I found out that I had to fiddle a little with the sleep monitoring sensitivity to get readings that I thought were accurate, but that's not complicated. You get five settings from "Very calm" to "Very restless", one of which must correspond to your average sleep activity. In the advanced settings of the app, you can activate a "Use iPhone" control. The app does not count the time when the user reads on the iPhone in bed as part of the sleep minutes.

The watch app itself is neat and easy to read, and the interface to the rings makes a little more sense there. There's even a handy "Lights off" button that works with HomeKit-enabled lights.

For € 3.49, the app is good deal, and for a long time it was my favorite sleep tracking app on the Apple Watch.


Autosleep's top spot was slightly overtaken by Pillow, thanks to some features added in recent updates. Pillow is designed to track sleep for anyone with an iPhone - by placing it next to you on your mattress. A vague course of action when sharing a bed - but we'll focus on Apple Watch functionality here.

Pillow's main interface shows a couple of sleep activity rings, followed by a simplified graph of last night's sleep. Tapping this graph will give you more detailed information, including your total sleep time and a measurement of your sleep quality. You can see what percentage of your sleep time was awake, light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep.

EnlargeThe Pillow app looks a bit tidier, but also offers a lot of information.

Rotating your phone to landscape will change the view to show detailed information about some of your sleep data over time. Everything is presented in simple and clear vertical bar charts.

Pillow has a few other useful functions as well. It records sounds at night while you sleep, and you can hear them later to see if you snored or if it was the cat that woke you up. It may suggest times to go to bed based on your sleep statistics to make sure you're getting enough quality sleep and play sounds that might help you fall asleep. It has an alarm mode that wakes you up during the cheapest part of your sleep cycle before you have to get up.

Some of these features don't work when using the Apple Watch's auto activity detect mode, which is a real shame. But even without it, it's more or less an exact equivalent for Autosleep. The Pillow watch app does a little more than autosleep to unite the aesthetics of Apple's own watch apps. A recently updated update also added support for the full range of Series 4 complications, including the corner complications for the Infographic Window and the large center chart on the Infograf Modular clock face.

Pillow is theoretically free, but the app isn't particularly useful without the $ 5.49 in-app purchase. Without this, you will only get a very limited sleep analysis, which really does not serve the purpose of knowing whether you had a better night's sleep than usual. However, Pillow only offers a subscription option for all new users, the monthly subscription costs around 5 euros.

Which app is the best?

Autosleep and Pillow are both excellent choices. Neither is free, the premium version of Pillow is practically required to purchase. Perhaps most importantly, Autosleep is a one-time purchase; on the other hand, Pillow has been relying on subscriptions instead of a one-off purchase for some time, a month of premium features then costs 4.99 euros.

Both apps gave me similar data on total sleep time, but their reports on how much "good" sleep I got or how long I stayed in deep sleep were often very different. I feel like they just have different definitions of these things. What's more important is that they are both pretty consistent, at least once you've got them set up properly and given the learning heuristics a week or two to figure out your sleep patterns.

I found that the basic Pillow information is presented in a more engaging and easier-to-understand format. The Apple Watch app and notifications are great. I like Autosleep's diagrams for detailed information, but honestly, I rarely can be so deeply asleep. Pillow's daily sleep summary notification includes a little chart that I really appreciate.

Fortunately, there is no real reason not to use both. The impact on the battery life is minimal - the apps basically only record the history of the watch's movement and heart rate data and process it - so it is not the case that one of the two apps has to be "active" while sleeping. I've used both successfully for several weeks and never had battery life issues on my 40mm Series 4. A couple of hours of charging in the evening is all I need to keep track of sleep that night and use my watch the next day .