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Not everyone is lucky enough to get 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. If you don't wake up feeling refreshed, a sleep tracker app can help you understand why and help you improve your sleep quality.
How do sleep tracking apps work?
Sleep trackers work with your smartphone or smartwatch to measure multiple data points. With the smartphone apps, connect your phone before you fall asleep and place it on your bedside table or on your bed so it can easily track movement and audio. Apps on a wearable (such as Fitbit or Apple Watch) track movements and audio, as well as your heart rate, and they do so with greater accuracy and precision.
Exercise is the main metric that these apps track, and over time there will be enough data to show your average sleep patterns and, in turn, some insight into your sleep quality. While sleeping, we generally move less, but we still vibrate occasionally and change position. Sleep trackers are more effective on wearables, as motion is detected more accurately and accurately through the device's accelerometer and actigraphy, unlike a smartphone that only has an accelerometer.
One Quick Note …
Sleep Tracking Apps are not a substitute for professional medical advice and are intended for supplemental use only. If you think you have serious sleep problems, talk to your doctor about undergoing a professional sleep study or other options.
Things to Look For in a Sleep Tracking App
While each of these apps uses your smartphone or wearable to collect data on your sleep patterns, each has its own approach and other unique features. Before looking at them individually, here's what to expect:
- Accurate Metric Tracking: The best sleep tracking apps use a wide variety of metrics to get as much information as possible. The three most important metrics are movement, heart rate and snoring, but they can also track when you fall asleep, how long you sleep, when you get into different stages of sleep, and whether you wake up at night. Some trackers even take notes about environmental factors such as the temperature or ambient light in your bedroom.
- Easy to interpret data: Since sleep trackers are not everyday objects, they have to keep things simple so that everyone can understand them. Data should be presented to you with simple graphs or paragraphs that you can understand at a glance, such as how long you sleep on average each night, whether you get enough REM and deep sleep, and whether you snore or not.
- Advice: Identifying potential problems is only half the battle; these apps should also tell you what to do with the data it provides you. Should you go to bed earlier? Change which side you sleep on to stop snoring? Want to keep your room cooler at night? Knowing what problems you have and having an action plan to fix them can help you get a better night's sleep.
- Useful Extras: How and when you fall asleep and wake up are also something these apps should address (and they do). Some also offer tools like relaxing music, bedtime stories, and even optimally timed alarm clocks to help you do both more easily.
Best Overall Sleep Tracking App: SleepScore
SleepScore (Free) will help you improve your sleep, not just track it. Through the app, you set sleep goals (such as staying longer or feeling more energized when you wake up), and in turn, it provides realistically helpful advice for achieving those goals. SleepScore, as the name suggests, gives you a sleep score of 0-100 based on multiple factors, with the aim of increasing your number until your sleep improves. Available for iOS and Android devices, the app uses your phone's contactless sonar technology to capture your breathing and movement.
The free plan is enough to track your sleep and provides an optimized alarm and seven-day sleep history, but if you want to get the most out of the app, consider upgrading to the premium plan ($ 5.99 / month or $ 49.99 / year). This gives you a more comprehensive sleep history, personalized recommendations, sleep insights and other features. SleepScore even has a section in the app dedicated to recommending expert curated products to help you get a better night's sleep – like pillows and a snoring solution – that helped others with a sleep number similar to yours.
SleepScore provides helpful tips on how to get back to sleep when you wake up at night. Likewise, the Smart Alarm feature helps you wake up refreshed at the right time in your sleep cycle so you don't feel drowsy all day. Fun daily polls let you answer sleep-related questions and see how other users in the SleepScore community have answered. Overall, SleepScore is a well-rounded app that provides interesting insights into how you sleep and how to improve the quality of your sleep.
Best Premium Sleep Tracking App: Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle ($ 29.99 / year) is all about getting the best night's sleep possible. Not only does it track various data points related to your sleep patterns and habits, it goes to great lengths to help you fall asleep easily and wake up gently at the optimal time depending on where you are in your sleep cycle. It tracks your sleep by simply lying on your bedside table – no need to put it under your pillow or sheets like other smartphone apps.
The app provides relaxing stories and sounds to help you fall asleep faster and easier, with options such as ocean sounds or bedtime stories. And while you sleep, Sleep Cycle takes note of statistics like how long you slept, if you snored, and more. All charts are colorful, easy to understand and fun to read. You can also view the past day, week or month at a glance.
Sleep Cycle finds the optimal time at the end of your fifth cycle to wake you up with a soft morning alarm (you can choose from more than a dozen high-quality, pleasant options), and thanks to the smart integration into your At home, you can combine your Philips Hue lamps, which mimic the sun with a gradual illumination of your bedroom. The app includes a mood tracker, backs up your sleep data online, and lets you take notes about your day regarding exercise, nutrition, weather, and anything else that can affect your sleep.
Best for Galaxy Watch users: Sleep as Android
Sleep as Android ($ 9.99) is a comprehensive sleep tracker for Android smartphones and Samsung Galaxy Watch users. The Galaxy Watch has native sleep tracking via the Samsung Health app and monitors light, deep and REM sleep cycles. However, sleep as Android is a nice alternative if you want features that are more robust and accurate.
The smartwatch version of the app has a clean, modern interface and plenty of features that make it easy to use. It uses motion detection to track how long you slept, whether you snore, whether your sleep cycles were irregular in any way, as well as your light, deep, and REM sleep. Since it spends all night tracking your sleep cycles, Sleep as Android can find the optimal time during your fifth light sleep cycle to wake you up gently. The alarm clock has pleasant nature sounds (like the sea or a storm) and offers similar nature sounds to lullabies to help you fall asleep (or, okay, you can choose to use your favorite Spotify playlist instead). It also integrates with Philips Hue and other smart lights via IFTTT, if you want your bedroom to brighten gradually as the morning progresses.
One of the best features of Sleep as Android is the slacking prevention tool, which requires you to solve a CAPTCHA puzzle or shake the phone to turn off the alarm. This isn't a standard feature, but if oversleeping is something you're struggling with, it's great to have the option to enable it, as in most cases it's just enough activity to wake your brain up for the day. It also tracks sleep conversations and snoring, and can help you avoid jet lag with LED lights when you travel so you can get a good night's sleep wherever you are.
Best for Apple Watch users: Pillow
If you want to track your sleep with your Apple device, Pillow (free) is the best app to do that. While it works for iPhones too, you get the most out of the app when you use it on your Apple Watch so it can track your movements, heart rate and audio (you know, the snoring or sleeping talk you don't at all, even though your partner tells you to do that). Pillow also makes many of its premium features temporarily free (which normally costs $ 4.99 / month or $ 27.49 / year) due to COVID-19, including all three nap modes, heart rate analysis via Apple Health source comparisons and all sleep aid
Pillow has an engaging colorful interface that is easy to use – just wear your Apple Watch to bed and it will do the rest. Moreover, it automatically synchronizes your data with Apple Health. In addition to tracking sleep statistics, the app also allows you to record your mood when you wake up, so it can provide personalized tips for improving your sleep.