Automatic Sleep Tracking with Sleep++ 3.0

I’m delighted to release Sleep++ 3.0 today.

This is the most significant update to Sleep++ since I introduced it back in 2015. It brings about a fundamental change in how it tracks your sleep and gives you more tools for understanding and then using that data to improve your sleep habits. This update includes:

  • Automatic Sleep Tracking!
  • A morning sleep summary notification
  • Nightly sleep goal
  • A bedtime reminder notification
  • A visual overhaul and a lot of little tweaks and improvements.

Automatic Sleep Tracking

The headline feature of this update is the introduction of automatic sleep tracking into Sleep++. When I first wrote Sleep++ it was all based around the idea of directly measuring your movement throughout the night and using this as an indication of the quality of your sleep. This works really well but because of technical limitations on the Apple Watch it required that you manually launch the Apple Watch app at the start and end of your night to tell Sleep++ when you were asleep. This is awkward and really not ideal.

As things progressed with watchOS and more background capabilities were added I started to investigate doing this direct motion analysis automatically. Unfortunately it never worked reliably enough to ship. So instead I started looking for alternatives where I could get just as good data but without needing you to manually interact with the app.

If you wear an Apple Watch overnight it is always silently collecting a variety of health metrics. These include things like heart rate, active calories, and steps taken. My hope was that I could find away to combine these metrics into an analysis that produced comparable results to direct measurement. As they are all related to the movement measurements I was taking before I was hopeful.

After a few weeks of investigation I was delighted to find that I could! So now all you need to do to have Sleep++ track your sleep is wear it overnight. Then each morning it will look at your health data and be able to determine the length and general quality of your night. You don’t even have to install the Apple Watch app anymore for this to work (indeed it is only useful if you want to use the older manual tracking approach).

Morning Sleep Summary Notification

One upside of the old, manual tracking approach was that each morning you would have to open the Sleep++ app to end your sleeping session and then be shown an analysis of your night.

Now with automatic tracking you don’t have a need to open the app any more, so instead I have added the ability to optionally get a summary of each night’s sleep as a notification every morning. These include both the duration and timeline of your night as well as a breakdown of the restlessness of your sleep. This notification should appear on your iPhone within a few minutes of first unlocking your iPhone each morning.

One little note that I ran into a few times during testing. If you have Do Not Disturb enabled you will not see the alert pop-up or alert you. It will still be available to view in Notification Center, but since Do Not Disturb is often enabled while you sleep this has caused a bit of confusion

Sleep Goal

I’ve always struggled a bit with how to give Sleep++ a sense of celebration. In Pedometer++ when you hit your daily step goal the screen explodes in confetti, celebrating your activity. With sleep tracking that type of thing is a bit trickier. Often the reasons that we have difficult or short nights fall outside of our control, so I don’t want to be quite to dramatic with how I illustrate your goal. Also, once you go to sleep you cannot really control the soundness of your night so basing any sort of goal on restlessness seemed counterproductive.

To that end I’ve gone with a more subtle method for indicating your progress towards your sleep goals. You can now specify a nightly sleep duration goal. This defaults to seven hours. Whenever you sleep (or are trying to sleep) for that amount of time the sleep entry for that night will get a subtle green tint. If you don’t quite get there then it gets a subtle red tint.

Your sleep goal is marked just below each night’s graph to give you an indication of how close you came.

I’ve found this to be useful for myself to get a quick sense of how I’m doing and if I need to make adjustments to my sleeping routine, without feeling bad about the nights when things don’t quite work out.

Bedtime Reminder

To try and help build a more consistent sleep schedule I have also added an optional bedtime reminder notification to the app. This is intended to give you a gentle poke each night to head to bed.

In my own personal use I’ve found this really helpful for avoiding those nights where I really don’t intend to stay up late but get engrossed in reading a book or watching a show…and then realize hours later that I’m in for a short night. This little prompt lets me instead make a conscious choice in those situations, which is much nicer.

I really hope you like these updates. The app remains free in the App Store. When you first install Sleep++ it will analyze the last 30 days of data for you, so provided you have been wearing your Apple Watch overnight you’ll be given a great starting point for understanding your sleep right from the start.

David Smith