Apple Watch sleep tracking was planned for over five years

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in Apple Watch
Sleep tracking has been an intended feature for the Apple Watch for the last five years, Apple VP of technology Kevin Lynch has revealed in an interview, with its inclusion in watchOS 7 and iOS 14 being a sign Apple is keen to do more with its years of research on the subject.

Sleep tracking on watchOS 7
Sleep tracking on watchOS 7


A long-rumored feature of the Apple Watch, the added sleep-related functionality intends to make a night's rest better for its users, including encouraging users to set a daily routine before they go to bed. While it is an expansion of Apple's existing Bedtime feature in iOS, the move from a simple sleep-time metric to something more advanced has been on the cards for quite some time.

In an interview with CNET, Lynch confirmed sleep tracking has been on the product roadmap of the Apple Watch since its original debut. Apple has been conducting sleep research for many years, including using EEGs for measuring sleep compared to an Apple Watch, but only now is it becoming a bigger thing for Apple to present to users.





On the subject of the Wind Down feature, which helps set the bedtime routine, Lynch explains the establishing of a routine is important to sleep quality. "Many sleep apps show information about REM cycles and other data like that, and we've looked a lot into that," said the VP.

While studies using EEGs allowed for the monitoring of electrical activity in the brain during sleep, Lynch admits "we've learned a lot about how the main thing here is really about duration," rather than actions. While movement of limbs may be treated as an input for monitoring via an Apple Watch, Lynch suggests "it's not an complete picture of what's going on inside your brain."

Apple's decision to limit the data it provides to users is based on the results of those studies, and that it didn't provide seemingly useful data to users. "It can be overwhelming and stressful to look at that data," he proposes about tracking results from sleep analysis apps. "You can't really coach yourself to have more or less REM stages."

Sleep tracking setup on an iPhone
Sleep tracking setup on an iPhone


Believing it wasn't the best approach, Apple instead looked at how users prepared to sleep as a more actionable process. A routine "will result in people getting a better night's sleep, which then has secondary effects of perhaps your REM stages sorting themselves."

To further take away stress of needing to improve sleep, the tracking in the Health app will avoid nudging the user with negativity, instead opting for positive reinforcements where possible. The anxiety of going to sleep can "actually cause more problems," Lynch suggests, with people "already well aware that they haven't been getting enough sleep."

Much like other health-related elements in the Apple Watch and elsewhere, Apple doesn't intend to see any of the sleep data generated by its users. The internal studies, which relied on "thousands of people," were instrumental in creating the machine learning models used for the analysis, which is performed only on the user's iPhone or Apple Watch.

"We treat the data that's being collected on a user's device with a high level of sensitivity around privacy," Lynch claims. Even so, there is always the possibility Apple could open up some form of public study into sleep similar to its existing heart and hearing projects, possibly to determine links in sleep-related conditions.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    haywoodhaywood Posts: 17member
    I use a Fitbit to track my sleep and I think it does an excellent job. I think Apple has be on par or better for people to wear their watch to sleep. 
  • Reply 2 of 9
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,736member
    Looks like it keeps track of naps too. :)
    Average time in bed was 5 hours 43 minutes.
    Average time asleep was 6 hours 28 minutes.
  • Reply 3 of 9
    multimediamultimedia Posts: 949member
    I’ve been tracking my sleep with Sleep++, AutoSleep, and SleepWatch for years all installed on my WATCH Series 3 & 5 as well as my iPhone. This is nothing new. I charge my WATCH from 6pm-9pm daily.
    razorpitpujones1watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 9
    I'm curious what this means for Beddit. I'm guessing Apple will ultimately discontinue the product. 
  • Reply 5 of 9
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,681member
    haywood said:
    I use a Fitbit to track my sleep and I think it does an excellent job. I think Apple has be on par or better for people to wear their watch to sleep. 
    It already is. 
    StrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,558member
    haywood said:
    I use a Fitbit to track my sleep and I think it does an excellent job. I think Apple has be on par or better for people to wear their watch to sleep. 
    Apple Watch and ecosystem apps already are. I use AutoSleep, it’s very good. Apple’s will likely be more streamlined than all the data Auto presents, but I’m sure it will be good. Looking forward to comparing them 
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 9
    I'm curious what this means for Beddit. I'm guessing Apple will ultimately discontinue the product. 
    I liked my Beddit, but it died after about a year. I wonder how many other Beddit users suffered the same outcome. If too any, then surely Apple will use the knowledge gained from Beddit and roll it into sleep tracking, and then kill the product or give it more capabilities.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 9
    razorpitrazorpit Posts: 1,796member
    haywood said:
    I use a Fitbit to track my sleep and I think it does an excellent job. I think Apple has be on par or better for people to wear their watch to sleep. 
    Apple Watch and ecosystem apps already are. I use AutoSleep, it’s very good. Apple’s will likely be more streamlined than all the data Auto presents, but I’m sure it will be good. Looking forward to comparing them 
    I think AutoSleep does a great job of capturing data but the UI leaves a lot to be desired. I’m sure Apple will do a better job of presenting the information. I just hope they allow you to fill in missing segments like AutoSleep does.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 9
    lolliverlolliver Posts: 429member
    haywood said:
    I use a Fitbit to track my sleep and I think it does an excellent job. I think Apple has be on par or better for people to wear their watch to sleep. 
    That's a pretty low bar to clear. I had a Fitbit prior to getting an Apple Watch and the sleep tracking left  alot to be desired. It was far from accurate and didn't do anything to promote a healthy sleep routine. 
    Looking forward to Apple's implemtntation. If it's even half as good as it reads from the description I will find it more useful than Fitbit's offering. 
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
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