Have you ever used a sleep tracking app or device but didn’t find that it motivated you to sleep better? Or maybe you just tried it out for fun and forgot about it a few weeks later.
The new sleep app on the Apple Watch is a great tool to improve sleep habits when combined with lifestyle changes and goal setting.
In this article, I’ll discuss how you can use the Apple Watch to better track your sleep, and how this simple reminder can help you reorganize your day.
Take sleep more seriously
Sleep is a basic human need. As humans, we need to sleep in order to function at our best. Just like we need food and water to survive, the body needs sleep in order not to suffer the negative effects that come with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and other health problems—all of which exacerbate the problem of chronic disease and could be prevented by getting enough rest each night.
Sleep isn’t only important for your physical health; it’s also crucial for your mental health! Studies have shown that people who are deprived of adequate amounts of sleep are more prone to anxiety or depression than those who get their recommended 7-9 hours per night. Your sleep matters, and making it a priority should be as important as eating healthy and exercising.
Focus on goals
If you only choose one way to improve your sleep with the Apple Watch, focus on goals. Smart goals can make all difference when they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Today we have incredible tools to help improve our sleep, but as with any tool, we have to put forth effort to get results.
With Watch OS 16, the Apple Watch now has the ability to track your sleep stages, heart rate, blood oxygenation, respiratory rate, body temperature, and sleep history. The watch also has the ability to set a sleep schedule, set goals, and notify you when you meet those goals.
You may not know what to do with all this information, but the most important part is to set goals and stick to a sleep schedule. You can do this by using the watch to set your sleep and wake times. Next, make personal goals for sleep that include short and long term goals.
Lifestyle changes to improve sleep
Improving sleep means making sleep a priority and removing any obstacle in its path. Here are a few healthy habits to help you get ready for bed.
- Plan social activities during the day
- Get exposure to sunlight when awake
- Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea), alcohol, and nicotine
- Avoid naps 6 hours before bedtime
- Avoid working out 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Avoid meals 3-4 hours before sleep
- Reduce social activities
- Dim lights in the room or use soft light
- Avoid screens before going to bed
- Create a relaxing routine like reading a book or listening to music
- Keep the bedroom quiet, cool, and dark
Create a bedtime routine with the Apple Watch
There are plenty of ways to use the Apple Watch to help you sleep better. The first step is creating a routine by setting an alarm and setting a bedtime reminder. You can then use your watch to track your sleep, which will give you insight into how well you’re sleeping and what changes could be made to improve it.
How the Apple Watch can motivate you to sleep
If you have sleep deprivation, or find that your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, the sleep tracking functionality can help motivate you to see why this may have happened and when your sleep health changed. You can then use this data to implement goals and lifestyle changes to change your sleep habits, routines, and activities.
The Apple Watch is also a useful tool to track how long you sleep and how much time you spend in different sleep stages. It’s useful in its ability to collect sleep data, set reminders, alarms, and notifications to prepare you for sleep.
How does the Apple Watch track sleep?
The Apple Watch tracks sleep by using an algorithm to predict sleep stages by tracking the heart rate and your movement data. Most of the data is based on how much time is spent in sleep, but it also takes in account movements made while you’re sleeping.
After you wake up you’ll see how much time you spent in each sleep stage.
Watch settings to track sleep
Before you can start tracking your sleep, you’ll need to set up the watch. This is a simple process that takes only a few steps:
- Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
- Scroll down until and select the sleep app
- Toggle on “Track Sleep with Apple Watch”
How to read your sleep data on your Apple Watch or iPhone
The Apple Watch can give you a quick glimpse of your sleep habits, but the iPhone health app will give you a much more in depth overview. Here’s how to find the sleep data on either device:
On the watch, press the the crown and select the sleep app with the blue bed icon. Scroll to the bottom until you see sleep stages. The data will include time spent in sleep phases that include awake, REM, Core, and Deep.
On the iPhone, open the health app and under “health categories” choose sleep. This collects a comprehensive list of information related to sleep which includes how much sleep you had for the past day, week, month or 6 month period. It also teaches you sleep stages, the importance of sleep, and how to get a good night’s sleep.
Apple Watch vs sleep EEG device
In a recent video, the quantified scientist compares the Apple Watch with an EEG device. In this study, he explains that the Apple Watch tracks sleep by measuring both heart rate and body motion to detect sleep stages.
He concludes that the sleep tracking performance with the Apple Watch is better than any other sleep tracking device tested, and it’s a close alternative to a sleep tracking EEG device.
Using the Apple Watch for occupational therapy
The Apple Watch can also be used as a treatment approach for occupational therapists, doctors, or other health professionals to help them them set goals and analyze sleep data to help their clients develop better sleep patterns.
They can use the steps above to create goals, provide patient education on lifestyle habits, set sleep schedules, and work on good sleep habits. The health app on the iPhone also has some great resources on sleep health to prepare for better sleep.
If you’re looking to improve your sleep, the Apple Watch is a great place to start. It’s an easy way to track how long you sleep and set up routines that will help get you into bed at the right time.
It won’t fix all your sleep problems, but when you set goals and make the necessary lifestyle changes it can have a positive impact on your overall sleep and health.
David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.