Last Updated on January 26, 2023 by Sandra Allens
We are surrounded by the mystery of sleep. Nevertheless, it is possible to track your sleep with the help of best sleep tracking apps and determine the appropriate time to arouse or sleep. If the users prefer a more intuitive interface rather than Sleep Cycle, we recommend SleepScore to them. Eight sleep scientists were interviewed and four popular sleep-tracking apps were tested over a month before we decided that none of them offers objective sleep analysis and does not replicate the experience of a sleep laboratory. Over time, they can reveal trends and patterns that can help you eventually improve your skeep.
The Best App for Tracking Your Sleep
Apps with detailed recommendations for improving sleep are the most intuitive, as well as providing the most detailed information.
SleepScore is the best sleep tracking app available for iPhone and Android phones. It offers actionable advice to help you reach your sleep goals. Our tests showed that its smart alarm woke us up slowly, making us feel less groggy than most of its competitors. It also provides more detailed sleep-stage information than most of its competitors. You can track your sleep in free version for seven days at a time, as well as general sleep advice. It is possible to track and record your sleep fairly accurately for $50 per year with SleepScore, which can help you set goals for improving your sleep. Apple iPhones 6 and newer are required to use SleepScore.
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Less Data, Simpler Interface
A simple app that demonstrates how sleep patterns affect eating habits and exercise habits is what you are looking for. However, SleepScore doesn’t track as much information and doesn’t provide customized advice.
With the ability to work on both iPhones and Androids, Sleep Cycle is almost as popular as Sleep Score. As an app, it provides little detail about sleep stages and is less transparent regarding how the technology works for tracking sleep. Unlike SleepScore, Sleep Cycle doesn’t give you an accurate score for each sleep stage. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide advice on sleeping. Because this app has clean graphs, it makes it easy to see patterns, so you can make sense of them easily. You’ll enjoy getting up and going to bed with its smart-alarm sounds while taking a bath and getting ready for bed.
Who Should Receive This
Sleep trackers should not be worn by everyone because not everyone sleeps. It is still very difficult to get accurate sleep readings, and a number of apps fail to clarify what they should do with the results they produce. As W. It must be noted that this is indeed the case. Chris Winter, author of The Sleep Solution: Why You Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It, quoted a fellow pessimist as saying, “A tracking device is allowing us to contemplate our difficulties in a way that was previously impossible.”.
It is true that no one likes to admit their problems, but many of us, as evidenced by many trackers, feel the same way-and many others are feeling the same way. The apps with sleep tracking capabilities are therefore most suitable for people who are only casually interested in improving their sleep at night and waking up feeling more energetic the following morning.
In this article, we will not be talking about apps like the ones below which are designed for people that are elite athletes, marine officers, or airline pilots who can use sleep analysis as a way to assist in saving their career. A smart device cannot help those who think that they have sleep apnea and wish they didn’t have to stay up a long time in a sleep clinic because their smart device saves them from a boring night.
Everybody sleeps, but not everyone should wear a sleep tracker. If you’re unhappy with the results of sleep trackers, you should not use them. A preoccupation with improving one’s sleep is called orthosomnia, or obsessing over sleep data. The term was coined by PhD Kelly Baron after she noticed patients complaining about the lack of sleep, duration, and quality. For people like you, how you feel throughout the day may be a better indicator of how well you sleep. Don’t be afraid to give these apps a try if you’re interested in exploring your quantified self. You won’t lose anything by trying them out.
The trackers make use of Bluetooth to transmit information wirelessly, so you can wear them on your face or with your hand, or with fitness trackers or smartwatches, so you can track your sleep as well. It is a good idea to use apps because most people find them appealing because they are readily available and relatively affordable.
What Sleep Trackers Do
Home sleep tracking is difficult. Research director of Charité University’s Interdisciplinary Center of Sleep Medicine Thomas Penzel, PhD, describes tracking sleep disorder as difficult. You can watch the shifting of tectonic plates as you sleep. A proxy server is therefore necessary. Brain activity, eye movement, body movement, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and more are monitored by medical-grade equipment and sensors at a sleep lab. Sleep monitoring is done through this process, called polysomnography.
Currently, sleep trackers available to consumers are unable to track brain wave activity or eye movements, the most reliable measures of sleep stages, so they guesstimate based on less reliable signals. Among the technologies that are currently available are:
- Movement tracking. The accelerometer in fitness trackers and other wearable devices interprets stillness as sleep, rather than movement as wakefulness. When used alone, however, the accelerometer may not be accurate since it may perceive you as sleeping even if you are clearly awake and staring at the ceiling at the same time. The accelerometer will let you know if you frequently wake up during the night because you toss and turn. For example, optical heart rate monitoring is often used in conjunction with movement tracking when tracking sleep.
- Sound detection. These smartphone apps, as a result of this technology, can determine the phase of sleep a person is going through based on the sound of the movements. In this application it assumes if there is less movement in your sleep that you are in light sleep, and if there is a lot of movement it assumes that you are in deep sleep. Now, the device allows you to track your movement under your bed rather than from your nightstand.
- Sonar. Technology similar to this is used by bats and submarines to navigate. Humans can’t hear the sound frequencies produced by your phone’s speakers. A microphone on your phone captures the waves generated by your chest while you breathe. As you breath during the night, your deflected waves can change, indicating how your brain shifts as it moves through various stages of sleep. This app analyzes your sleep by looking at your deflected waves. Placing the sonar-capable app on a night stand near your chest will make it easier to use.
- Monitoring Heart Rate with Optical Sensors. The Apple Watch, Oura Ring, and fitness trackers all provide this feature. The LEDs that shine through the skin capture the blood flow. Combined with your motion data, your device can then generate your sleep report as the rate changes based on the light reflected back from your user. We found that wearables’ results varied more than those of apps in our tests, although researchers believe the accuracy of wearables can improve over time. Due to optical blood-pressure monitors being worn on the body, Penzel explained, “the algorithms would become more accurate with time, but that takes time.”.
Choosing the most appropriate technology to track sleep is difficult. A Brown University computer scientist with expertise in human-computer interaction explains: “There are different implementations and environments, so I hesitate to declare that one technology is better than another without extensive research.” Sound sensing could be useful for people who snore for the most part. If you have a regular breathing pattern, sonar may be a good option. For mattresses – which inherently do a good job of motion isolation – accelerometers may be of no use, but on wearables, they will prove much more effective.
Sleep analysis apps get more accurate results when they measure and interpret your data effectively. In his opinion, no two sleep monitoring applications will produce the same results, even if the apps are using the same technology. In addition, the app learns sleep patterns over time, further complicating matters. The first sleep, Smith said, is often the least accurate. Over time, it collects more and more useful information as you use it.”
Although personal sleep-tracking devices provide some accuracy, they come up short in terms of precision. Nevertheless, they are not useless. There are sleep trackers that can count heartbeats and detect snoring with reasonable accuracy. The North Dakota Center for Sleep’s medical director, Seema Khosla, MD, warns that when analyzing sleep-stage data, examining trends instead of absolute values can be useful. The sleep trackers are good at setting goals for change and helping you to feel better, as Smith, who advised Fitbit on its sleep advice, pointed out.
There are also limitations to a sleep lab. Doctor Nathaniel Watson, MD developed sonar-based technology which he licensed to SleepScore. But Watson says it doesn’t represent real life. At least, Watson believes the apps help people understand sleep in nature better.
Our Selection Process
The number of functional details in sleep trackers can be overwhelming. In tracking your sleep, success is not measured by perfect tracking; rather, the objective is to improve your sleep and learn about trends. Additionally, best sleep tracking apps must contain several other features in order to accomplish that. In reviewing the apps, we were most concerned with the following characteristics:
- User-Friendly. The ability to see precisely where to tap to set the alarm was added in order to make it easier to set and track the alarm, as well as to shut off the alarm. Also, we prefer apps that allow us to take our smartphones off the bed and place them on nightstands.
- Easily Interpreted. If you have to have a doctorate in statistics to read multicolored graphs, they’re useless. It is critical that x- and y-axes are clearly labeled and that reports are written in normal English when it is 5:30 in the morning.
- Actionable Advice. Graphs are displayed but no recommendations for improving sleep are offered. You cannot avoid getting up and moving when your pedometer indicates 1,400 steps at 2 p.m. If you learn that you’re not getting enough deep sleep, you don’t know what to do. In addition, our team looked for trackers that provide advice or explanations, like alerts for sleep deprivation or reminders for going to bed early.
- Precision and Accuracy. The aim was to find an app that would provide us with reliable sleep data, such as where and when we fell asleep and woke up, and when we went through different phases of sleep. It would be ideal for the app to provide readings by minute. As a general rule, most apps don’t do this, so they aren’t worth paying for. It isn’t necessary to be so precise if our aim is to simply determine if, for example, we sleep better at our house than at a man’s. We did not place a high value on accuracy and precision, although they were important.
- Security and Privacy Policies Must be Serious. We looked for companies that could assure us that our data would be encrypted and not be shared with third parties. If they were going to use the data for research and product improvement, we expected them to anonymize and aggregate it. As the FTC points out in its blog post, aggregate data is particularly difficult to keep privately. In addition, you can elect not to share any personal data with the app if you wish, however certain features may not be available. When you use any health monitor, always make sure you understand the privacy policies of the platforms you use and, if you wish to cancel your subscription, email customer service to request your data be deleted.
- Useful Extras. Moreover, we found that our preferred apps give us a smart alarm that wakes us up when we want at the time of our choosing during late night sleep, soothes us during sleep, and helps us fall asleep at night.
Using iTunes and Google Play, we selected the most downloaded and rated sleep apps to test. Furthermore, the apps were confirmed to be able to export data as well as secure it. We also emailed them several times to check the responsiveness of their customer service. We found four apps that demonstrated good effectiveness in our test: Pillow, Sleep as Android, Sleep Cycle, and SleepScore.
All the apps were tested at once in 2018 and individually throughout the year for a total of eight days. Her trial also included wearing a fitness band and using two Apple Watch apps on the same wrist to figure out whether you need a phone app if you have a wearable fitness tracker already.
In light of our inability to set up sleep-lab-quality polysomnography equipment at home, Winter suggested comparing the apps and wearables to a sleep diary. On that particular day, Joanne noted if she had consumed alcohol or coffee, whether she had exercised, and if she awoke at night. On the same template she downloaded from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website, she also noted when she woke up for good the following morning. Her only consciously wakened moments were during dreams (or REM sleep).
The image below shows how typical data is presented by the apps in various formats. We were less concerned about sleep quality readings between nights than with discrepancies across nights. In addition to providing the most information, they are also the most user-friendly. These favorites were evaluated along with several other popular wearables.
The four best sleep tracking apps Justin tried in 2018 were the most popular and had the most useful features in 2020, when Justin reviewed them. A Google Pixel 3a and an iPhone 8 were used in Justin’s evaluation of these four apps’ new features. In the middle of the night, he found the sleep diary to be less useful, but it did help him determine which apps and trackers were good for him based on their data and usability.
Apps to Track Your Sleep
There is no doubt that this is the most user-friendly, convenient, and detailed sleep app we tested.
It should be more than just a sleep tracker. We tested several best sleep tracking apps, and our testing showed SleepScore to be the best. The app that we tested was the most user-friendly, gave the best sleep trends analysis, and gave specific tips for achieving sleep goals out of all the apps we tested. The app was more accurate than the others, and the company has been very transparent about the research involved in the app.
With SleepScore, you can keep track of how well you sleep. Setting up SleepScore was more straightforward than Pillow or Sleep as Android, both of which required watching instructions videos. It can start tracking your activity automatically after you set a wake-up alarm and answer a few questions about your day.
In addition to factors such as the length of time it took you to sleep, how much light sleep you had, how much deep sleep you had, and how much time you spent awake, the app calculates a number for each night. As simple hours and minutes, these figures represent the time in hours and minutes. Additionally, you can determine what sleep phase you were in based on how often you awoke at night. SleepScore’s data is more difficult to understand than other apps’ graphs and percentages. The information provided by the app is more detailed than that of Pillow and Sleep Cycle, and is on par with Android Sleep and SleepScore.
The duration of our sleep and the frequency of our wake-ups were recorded more precisely by SleepScore than by the other apps we tested. Joanne was able to corroborate her sleep diary with SleepScore app data, which uses sonar technology to measure sleep time. The times Joanne recorded in her handwriting typically lined up with the times shown by SleepScore. Joanne’s awakenings were noted by other apps, but no specific times were provided.
The premium version of SleepScore offers recommendations on how to achieve goals in addition to setting them and offering tips for achieving them. There is a monthly charge of $6 or a yearly fee of $50. In the premium version of the app, we both selected all-night sleep for our goal, but there are also six other options, including “wake up less,” “sleep longer,” and “sharpen your mind. As a result, we created a sleep-enhancement path that included tips like avoiding heavy, acidic meals. The scientists combed scientific journals and textbooks for tips on how to make sure that you are sleeping well. Yet, they found no truly groundbreaking information, but they were happy to have some guidance. If you suspect a medical condition, the SleepScore Doctor Report generates the last 30 days of data for you to take to your doctor.
What do you think about SleepScore? Joanne would not score higher on our sleep tests in 2018 because she was unable to actually get more sleep. Despite the annual fee, knowing her sleeping habits made it worthwhile. Just as an app can improve your fitness, so can it improve your sleep. We won’t yell at you or make you feel bad when you ignore the advice of others. Your motivation and commitment to your goal must be particularly strong. SleepScore’s features might be able to help motivated people, but they might not suffice for all.
In addition to tracking habits and moods, SleepCycle can also track moods. You can, however, track trends through correlations after the fact in this case. Use the Sleep Sanctuary feature to adjust the light and noise levels in your bedroom. A notification appeared on Justin’s laptop screen when his screen was glowing, saying, “There might be too much light in your room. If necessary, use an eye mask!”.He shut down his laptop when he turned off all the lights. A message stating, “You’ve got the ideal sleeping environment” appeared. There is a feature in this application that helps you identify ideal sleep conditions if you don’t know. As they reach milestones, like sleeping all night, they are awarded “sleep stars.”
As well as open and transparent science, SleepScore’s works are also scientific. In June 2018, the app was launched after more than 12 years of scientific research. It is one of the few companies that posts scientific articles on its website to validate its methods in accordance with the recommendations of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. As these studies are not independent, you should take them lightly, but we appreciated their transparency nonetheless. Others told me that they continue to make research for accuracy tests against PSG, but don’t publish it. Dr. Mehmet Oz, its equity investor and equity board member, is the only member of SleepScore’s science team whose bio is available.
Smart alarms gradually increase volume instead of jolting you awake with a sudden buzz. Rather than picking up the device or tapping it with my finger, it was much easier to snooze and mute the smart alarm. However, you should be aware that using the app often leads to snoozing.
Not a Dealbreaker, but A Flaw
SleepScore only works on specific smartphones as of February 2021. iPhone 5, 5s, and SE are not supported, but iOS software 10.3.3 and higher are. In addition to the Galaxy Note 8, the Galaxy Note 9, and the Google Pixel 2 XL, there are other Android phones like the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8+, S9, S9+, and LG V30.
We asked the company about limitations and were told each model of phone must be tested before support can be provided, since the app depends on speakers and microphones. If you are using an Android device that isn’t supported by SleepScore, you can still track your sleep using the app, but its features and functionality will change. Also, the fact that non-compatible phones do not have up-to-date versions makes us wonder if security issues may arise from their incompatibility. Alternatively, if your phone isn’t compatible, we recommend Sleep Cycle, which we think is also a great option. Sleep as Android provides some cool features, but the interface is hard to navigate. For Android users who don’t mind a wonky interface, this application may appeal.
If the phone is elevated and not obscured by anything, SleepScore’s app will be able to detect your movement; if the phone is low or obscured, the app might not be able to detect your movements. Some online reviewers have complained that the app doesn’t always keep track of sleep history. It appears that the app was not tracking Justin’s sleep for two nights during his test.
Its sleep-sound options are fewer and not as pleasant as Sleep Cycle’s. In contrast to Sleep Cycle, SleepScore does not allow the addition of custom factors. SleepScore doesn’t display charts based on changes in your surroundings, such as air pressure, temperature, and location.
Snoring should be tracked directly by the app as with Sleep Cycle, Pillow, and Sleep on Android. There is, however, an app from SleepScore Labs that tracks snoring named Do I Snore or Grind?We found it to be more sensitive and perhaps more accurate based on our limited testing. SleepScore may make recommendations on products, which it says it tests independently on occasion. Although some find this feature intrusive, we found it to be very subtle.
Less Data, Simpler Interface
For those who want to track how sleep patterns relate to diet and exercise, this app is useful. However, it does not provide personalized advice and does not collect as much data as SleepScore does.
Alternatively, you can use Sleep Cycle if you’re more visually oriented or if you don’t have a compatible phone. In neither its graphics nor jargon does Sleep Cycle provide tailored sleep advice. The app offered fewer details about sleep stages than other apps, according to our tests. SleepScore is set up similarly, but the sleep reports it produces are more understandable because it produces limited data.
The Sleep Cycle app won because it presents sleep-lifestyle correlations visually, a feature that stands out from the other apps we used. With just a tap on the Trends button, you’re done!The sleep recorded the night before will automatically be correlated to any factor you enter, plus any Apple Health data obtained. The sleep of Joanne was worse while on a business trip. Even though she was at her mother’s house, she slept better than when she was there.
By using a microphone, the Sleep Cycle app detects your movement while sleeping. Using this method, you do not need to be as precise with the placement of your phone because it does not depend on sound waves reflecting off your chest. The app should be able to accurately track your sleeping patterns as long as it is relatively close to you. Sleep Cycle is completely free, and it works on all iPhones and Android phones, unlike SleepScore, which requires an iPhone 6 or later.
While it did a generally good job of measuring Joanne’s sleep, there seemed to be less of her waking moments captured in her sleep diary than Sleep Cycle within a 30-minute period. This may be the only information that can hint at patterns – that she had difficulty sleeping the night before. The app recorded Justin’s wake ups accurately when he tested the feature in 2020.
While Sleep Cycle is free, it provides four cool alarms that monitor your sleep and provide sleep tracking. The premium version costs $30 per year if you want 17 additional alarm sounds and Sleep Aid content. You’ll also need the premium version to register your wake-up mood, which lets you see how your lifestyle habits, or Sleep Notes, relate to your nighttime sleep. You can also listen to audioscapes and music right before bed, as well as 16 ambient sounds to sleep to. The only way to get any real benefit from an app, like this one or any other, is to put everything into it. Unless you do that, you’ll only see graphs.
Using the snoring feature does not require any special sensitivity. What’s worse, snoring or grinding? Justin compared the two.Snoring detection app, for example. Unlike the latter, the former can detect snoring via its snoring detection feature. As Justin usually snores in the middle of the night, the Sleep Cycle alarm sounds when he forgets his nasal strips.
In order to get specific scientific information about the app, we had to send persistent emails for three weeks. Sleep Cycle’s site does not list any academic research about its technology, unlike SleepScore, which provides research articles and bios about its scientists.
Apple Watch users can now download the Sleep Cycle app. On the main screen of the watch, choose a wake-up time and your sleep will be tracked. The sleep data will be displayed in your smartphone app as soon as you wake up. People who do not want to have their phones right next to them can use this integration. It will be tested in the future.
How About Fitbits, Apple Watches, or Other Wristwear?
Then you may not need to buy a separate app if you already wear a watch that tracks sleep. You don’t need to set up wearables before bed to track your sleep. Sleep trackers from Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple Watch were compared with four best sleep tracking apps in 2018. Initially, the wearables generated inaccurate sleep patterns when compared to the apps, overstating sleep, but with time, they became more accurate. Using the same device over the long term will result in this unless you change your devices frequently.
Smart alarms and sleep-inducing sounds are among the biggest benefits of sleep-tracking phone apps compared with wearables. Wearable devices will not only prompt you to get up and move during the day, but will also prompt you to get ready for bed if you partner sleeps differently. It can help you decide how hard to work out the next day based on how well you slept the night before if you don’t want to bring your phone into the bedroom.
Fitness trackers have significantly improved their sleep functionality since our 2018 test. There is a guide on fitness trackers with detailed information. Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE will be released in September 2020 with WatchOS 7 which tracks sleep using the Apple Watch’s accelerometer. Each watch offers Sleep Cycle and Sleep Score apps, but SleepScore can track your sleeping stages whereas Sleep Cycle only monitors how much time you spend asleep.
Sleep tracking was limited on the Apple Watch SE. Even though the Apple Watch comes with sleep tracking capabilities, we do not recommend buying it for this reason alone. With all the Apple Watch apps that can track sleep, including Sleep Cycle’s new app, it is disappointing that Apple doesn’t have a more comprehensive sleep feature, especially once you realize how much data it can capture.
A new feature called Wind Down locks your phone before your chosen bedtime and turns off notifications, which can come in handy for people who tend to spend too much time on their screens before bed. Even though sleep tracking is useful and can be useful, the app doesn’t actually track enough to warrant purchasing an Apple Watch for just sleep tracking.
Oura Ring – What About It?
Your sleep can be tracked by the Oura Ring by wearing it on your middle, index, and ring fingers. An integrated rechargeable battery makes it lightweight and convenient. We also discussed what the Oura Ring can do, as well as comparing it to SleepScore, Sleep Cycle, and Pillow. Oura Ring offers additional insight, including heart rate and heart rate variability readings, in addition to the SleepScore and Sleep Cycle, which we believe are sufficient for most people. Oura Ring is not as versatile as other wearables because of its cost and lack of fitness tracking features.
Comparing the sleep tracking capabilities of our top app picks and the Oura Ring, the latter did not prove either superior or inferior. The measurement of heart rate and HRV is still extremely accurate. Some illnesses, including COVID-19, can be detected before symptoms appear by combining oxygen-rate data with data from the ring.
Justin enjoyed testing the Oura Ring and found it very intriguing. His feelings often confirmed the data collected by the ring, which he used to track his body. A larger dataset, compared to other best sleep tracking apps, allowed Justin to better understand his sleep and body. While you’re moving, the ring provides little information, so it’s largely ineffective as a fitness tracker. Moreover, the Oura Ring is pretty expensive – six years of SleepScore subscription would not cover the cost of the device up front. Featuring 100 meter water resistance and a two-year warranty, the Oura Ring is a smart fashion piece. Review of the Oura Ring can be found here for more information.
It is only available on iOS, and Pillow does not work on mattresses or on phones that are in the bed with you. It might be a better choice compared to the others if you don’t mind it. It includes more sleep information than SleepScore and offers lifestyle tips that may be helpful to you. It can track your movement using the accelerometer and gyroscope in the phone. A great user experience can be had among Snooze Lab, smart alarm settings, and sleep data; the design is impressive, the graphs and charts are readable, and the user experience is smooth, too. Even though it underestimates wake time, Joanne found that the app tracked her REM sleep about the same time she awoke from a dream, in contrast to other apps. It costs $5 for one time purchase for Apple Watch users to get Sleep Cycle. We believe Pillow’s tracking capabilities are unchanged, however, the app recently received a significant update, and we plan on testing it shortly.
It has received a 4.5-star rating from almost one quarter million customers who have reviewed it on Google Play. Motion detectors and sonar are available for the bed and nightstand, but the app is difficult to use and the readings are difficult to understand. Neither the Oura Ring nor our pillow counted REM sleep when Justin tested the app. Moreover, he said that on two nights he slept 90 percent of the time in deep sleep, which is highly unlikely. The smart alarm was a success despite our misgivings. A web browser does not turn off unless it is turned off by you.
Garmin wearables and Samsung Health are also included. SleepScore’s sleep recommendations were easier to understand after a while than those offered by the app. There is a full paragraph dedicated to establishing a sleeping position, as well as some other recommendations, like a stretching exercise to relax tensioned muscles. You can also record talking, laughing, coughing, and sneezing while you sleep, which you can re-play in the morning, as well as recording snoring. Sleep Cycle’s snoring feature consistently produced better results. Sleep was consistently more noisy than Android. There is no statistically significant advantage to using this feature if you only snore.