9 Apps that Help You Monitor Your Sleep
The technology that humans have developed in the last century and a half has drastically altered the way we have slept for hundreds of thousands of years.
It is a rapid adjustment so it should be no surprise when problems rear their head. But technology doesn’t have to be seen as the bitter enemy of sleep. There are plenty of products developed with the purpose of helping you sleep better (although admittedly most of them are simply trying to reverse the effects technology has had on our slumber in the first place).
Our smartphone devices have quickly developed a track record of making the situation worse. But they can also be a tool to help us learn more about the way we sleep. Below are the 12 free and paid apps that allow you to monitor and track your time between the sheets.
In partnership with Abode Living, I have trialled 12 of the apps to see, which one I believe offers the best sleep-tracking experience. Some of them require the use of an Apple watch to use. As I do not own one, I borrowed one of a friend to complete the review, however the sample size of nights used for these apps is much shorter.
There are also a handful of Android only apps that I wasn’t able to review (Alarm Clock Xtreme and Sleep as Android) but if you use an Android phone they come highly rated from online reviews
1. Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle monitors your sleep and wakes you up when you are in a phase of light sleep. This is supposed to make you feel more awake and better rested. The idea is that you are waking up naturally, at a moment of lighter sleep, rather than with an alarm clock.
SleepCycle also has snooze features to choose from, including ‘intelligent snooze’, which gently wakes you up with shortening snooze cycles, and ‘regular snooze’, which you can adjust yourself. The app will also analyze your movements when you sleep, using either the microphone or accelerometer, to create a graph so that you can track the quality of your sleep over time.
This was the first sleep tracking app I tried and it is certainly one of the more popular ones out there on review websites. You set your phone face down and the app tracks your movement as you sleep. I used the app for two months and found that my restless nights more or less lined up with what the data was telling me. In terms of the app waking me up in moments of light sleep I certainly felt more gently roused, however a contributing factor to this could also be the very gentle and rising alarm tone that the app uses.
Like Sleep Cycle, Pillow analyzes the stages of your sleep and wakes you up at the optimal time of your sleep cycle according to the time you’ve set. It does this using either your iPhone or Apple Watch sensors. The app contains many tracking features, such as heart rate and sleep quality. You can unlock more features for $4.99, including sleep sound recordings, detailed statistics over time, and a power nap mode.
This app is much the same as sleep cycle. Personally I found the dashboard a little more complicated as the app tracks not just your stages of sleep but your heart rate and, if you want, makes audio recordings and displays them all in different ways.
The audio recordings is a neat feature but I am a relatively light sleeper and in my four weeks using it I didn’t get much of interest. I imagine it would be interesting if you lives in a more metropolitan area you could measure the sounds that happen around your bedroom with the quality of your sleep.
It is also compatible with the Apple watch however I did not try it on this device.
AutoSleep requires an Apple Watch to track and assess your sleep. A point of difference with this app is that it does not require you to turn it on and off before and after you sleep. All you need to do is configure AutoSleep and wear your watch to bed, and the app will do the rest. The data it collects, namely when you sleep and the quality of your sleep, is displayed in a unique clock interface.
For added accuracy, you can configure the app to match your habits. For example you can set certain time frames during which you normally sleep so that it doesn’t track two hours sitting still in class as sleep. You can also tell the app to treat your first iPhone unlock in the morning as a sign that you’ve fully woken up, and it will send you your sleep data. Though these features improve accuracy, they also mean the app is more complex to use. It works best if you consistently charge your phone at night, wear your watch to bed, and go to bed at approximately the same time every night.
It wasn’t for me as it took too much setting up. Also my unfamiliarity with the Apple watch mean the device format did not appeal to me.
4. Sleep Cycle Power Nap
This app is a spin-off that focuses on helping users power nap. The app can be set to various modes, including Power Nap (20 mins), Recovery Nap (45 mins). In addition to waking you up after your nap, the app will help you fall asleep with a soothing sound generator. Using your phone’s accelerometer, it will wake you up before you fall into deep sleep in order to leave you feeling alert and refreshed. The app is very basic, and will not collect or analyze data for you to look at.
Interesting version of the Sleep Cycle app. I installed this to try it out. I imagine it would be very useful for people leading certain lifestyles. However I do not really factor naps into my day so my usage was purely academic. I did find that I was able to nap with the assistance of the app a few times and I didn’t end up with that groggy feeling I often do when I accidently fall asleep.
SleepBot, like most sleep tracking apps, uses your smartphone’s accelerometer to track movement, sound levels, and sleep cycles. It arranges your sleep data into detailed tables that provide long-term information about your sleeping patterns and the quality of your sleep. The app will let you play back recordings of the sounds you make at night, including sleep talking. It will also wake you up at the best moment in your sleep cycle. SleepBot also has a website so that you can view or share your sleep data online in addition to on your phone.
Obviously the biggest point of difference with this app is that it is free. It also has some cool features like letting you know how much ‘Sleep Debt” you’re racking up. However, I found I snoozed a lot more often with this app, suggesting to me the movement tracking was not quite as good as some of the other apps.
MotionX records your sleep cycles, motions, and sounds in your sleep. You can listen back to audio-clips to provide insight into your sleep habits and quality. The app also provides data of your light sleep, deep sleep, and total sleeping time. It will wake you up at the best time during your sleep cycle, but it can also help you fall asleep with white noise or soothing music that fade out.
The app claims to work at a medical level of accuracy, however this is not really backed up by anything. I found the sleep graphs to be lacking when compared to some of the other apps that serve the same purpose.
Additional features include power nap tools, daily activity trackers, and a heart-rate monitor.
7. Sleep Time
Sleep Time is another sleep tracking alarm clock. Its main sleep-tracking features include sleep cycle analysis, long term graphs and data, and heart rate detection. It is equipped with a smart alarm that will wake you in a lighter stage of sleep. It also has the option to set your own song as your alarm, however I didn’t use this feature as I tend to trust the developers know more about what is good to wake up to than I do.
Additionally, there is a menu of sounds to choose from (called Soundscapes) that you can fall asleep to. This was my favourite point of difference. I often like to fall asleep to RainyMood, so it was nice to have something similar incorporated into the tracker app I was using.
It also includes comprehensive charts, and the app helps you determine what factors affect the quality of your sleep and how to improve it.
8. Smart Alarm Clock
This app determines the best time to wake you up by recording sleep statistics. You can log your nights of sleep in a detailed database in order to learn about your habits and what works best for you to get quality sleep. The premium version includes a sound recorder for noises longer than 5 seconds and hundreds of relaxation sounds to help you fall asleep or wake up.
It is on the lower end when it comes to popularity but I actually found this the best free version I tried. I did not try the paid version as the features don’t interest me but if you were planning to that would also need to be taken into account.
As the name suggests, this app is dedicated to snoring. It detects, logs, and records your snoring in order to help you snore less. You can enter factors like alcohol consumption to see what effect they have. It even gives you a ‘Snore Score’ to determine how bad your snoring is on a scale.
When you try different snoring remedies, you can see how effective they are thanks to SnoreLab. You can even save and email your snoring recordings. The Snore Score is less accurate if there are other noises in your bedroom while you sleep, but this does mean that you can also record sleep-talking and listen to it.
This app is different to the rest, however I included it because usually the sound recording on the tracking apps is something you have to pay for. If you are only looking for apps that track your snoring it can be annoying to have to pay for everything else. While there is a paid version of this app that lets you track your snoring overtime however the free version is more than enough to get people started.
If you are particularly interested in tracking your snoring the paid version gives you much more detail in this regard than any of the sound recording options on the tracking apps