watchOS 7: Practice with Apple Watch Native Sleep Tracker

After several years of rumors, Apple Watch is adding support for native sleep tracking with this year’s update for watchOS 7. Apple is pairing Apple Watch’s sleep tracking capabilities with new iPhone features like Wind Down and Wake. Up for a seamless crossover device experience. Is that how it works.

With watchOS 7, there is a new Sleep app on Apple Watch. Here, you can set your schedule, view sleep analysis, and adjust settings for things like Wind Down and your sleep goal. You can set different times depending on the days of the week. For example, I have a specific schedule for weekdays and a separate schedule for weekends.

Wind Down is a feature that “helps you establish a bedtime routine with shortcuts that help you relax.” You can adjust Wind Down settings in the Health app on iPhone. For example, you can choose different scenes from HomeKit, play certain playlists and podcasts, and get ready for tomorrow with paps like Calendar and Reminders.

Wind Down also automatically dims the lock screen of your iPhone to help you reduce the use of your smartphone before bed. Once the preset bedtime is activated, your iPhone and Apple Watch automatically go into sleep mode. On your iPhone, this displays a simple message saying “Sleep well” with a dimmed lock screen.

On Apple Watch, sleep mode displays the current time, as well as what time the alarm is set. It also disables features like wake up, so the watch face doesn’t light up in the middle of the night. If you want to get out of sleep mode on Apple Watch, you can activate the digital crown just like you do to get out of water mode.

When morning comes and it’s time to wake up, your Apple Watch can wake you up with an audible alarm or tactfully tapping your wrist. Once you are awake, sleep mode is disabled and your Apple Watch shows you the current time, weather, and current charge level. If you wake up before the alarm, your Apple Watch will ask you if you want to disable it.

To view sleep data on your Apple Watch, you can go to the Sleep app on Apple Watch or the Health app on iPhone. The actual data here is limited. Apple simply shows you your sleep time, as well as a range for your heart rate. While many third-party apps offer details on the sleep and rest stages.

What about the battery life?

It is too early to draw conclusions on what kind of effect sleep tracking will have on the battery life of your Apple Watch. iOS 14 and watchOS 7 are currently only available in the developer beta, and battery life optimizations are not final and performance is inconsistent. During my first night using Apple Watch sleep tracking, I lost around 22% of the battery overnight, but the second night cost 12% more manageable.

When do you charge? Apple will send you charging reminders if your Apple Watch is below 30% before bed. Personally, I think the best strategy is to take off your Apple Watch around an hour before bed, which is enough time to reach 100%.

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Native sleep tracking has been one of the most requested features of Apple Watch since the original Apple Watch launched in 2015. This year’s launch of watchOS 7 adds the native experience that many people expected, and does it quite well. The sleep tracking data itself is pretty basic, but connecting with features like Wind Down and Sleep Mode provides a stylish experience.

There is an absolute possibility that Apple Watch sleep tracking will improve with future beta versions of watchOS 7, or even be tied to new hardware released in the fall. New sensors and improved battery life with the Apple Watch Series 6 may allow additional sleep tracking capabilities.

For now, the WatchOS 7 integration of Apple Watch Native Sleep Tracking is a good start, and for many people, the native experience might suffice. For those who want more data and deeper analysis, the good news is that the third-party Apple Watch sleep tracking ecosystem has never been stronger.

In fact, the final setup could be to use Apple’s sleep tracking features in conjunction with a third-party sleep tracking app. This would allow users to access deeper sleep data, while taking advantage of features like Wind Down and Sleep Mode. There are a variety of third-party applications available, including Sleep ++, AutoSleep, NapBot, and Pillow. Check out our full roundup for details on each.

In fact, Sleep ++ developer David Smith thinks that Apple’s native support for Apple Watch sleep tracking apps is actually good news for third-party developers:

I guess a good summary of my expectation is that right now (for example) 1% of Apple Watch users plan to try sleep tracking. After this fall, most Apple Watch users will notice it and (let’s say) 50% will give it a try. Apple’s focus will be enough for 90% of them, but 10% will want more. Which leads to now that 5% of Apple Watch users look for a third-party application to increase their experience … so I end up way ahead overall.

Have you had a chance to test Apple Watch sleep tracking on watchOS 7? If so, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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