It’s hard to improve something unless you have an effective way to measure it.
That’s where sleep tracking apps come in. If you want to optimize your sleep quality then the same technology that ruins our sleep with blue light may just be able to help restore our sleep.
To improve your sleep quality, it’s important to start tracking 2 key metrics.
1. Deep Sleep Time
Every 90 minutes we go through a 4-part sleep cycle and the important part of this cycle is the last stage of deep, delta wave sleep where our body releases human growth hormone (HGH) for restoration and growth.
Getting better sleep quality means spending more time in the deep sleep phase so it’s important to track stage 4 sleep to get a clear idea of how restful your sleep is.
While a number of sleep apps for iPhone and Android allow you to track your sleep cycles by resting your smartphone on your bed, I recommend getting a wearable that integrates sleep tracking and HRV monitoring for better long-term sleep management.
2. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Your heart rate variability is a measure of how balanced and relaxed your autonomic nervous system is. Our nervous system has two modes:
- Sympathetic nervous system: This is the stress response (flight, flight, freeze)
- Parasympathetic nervous system: This is the relaxation response (rest, digest, reproduce)
Too much time spent with the sympathetic nervous system activated can lead to a significant reduction in the restorative quality of our sleep, which can result in an overload of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Today’s busy, hyperconnected, and stressful way of life leads many people to have sympathetic dominance, which means their parasympathetic relaxation response isn’t activated enough for the body to properly recharge and repair.
To get more deep sleep time and better sleep quality overall, it’s important to track your HRV upon rising each morning.
While apps for iPhone and Android such as HRV4Training or Welltory and can give you an HRV reading using your finger pressed against the camera lens, I don’t recommend this method. It’s easy to forget and the accuracy isn’t ideal.
I recommend getting a wearable that integrates both sleep tracking and HRV monitoring (here’s my full guide on this).
Sleep Tracking Apps
These apps for iPhone and Android will integrate with a sleep tracking wearable to help you track and improve your sleep quality.
If you don’t have a sleep tracking wearable, you can still use Sleep Score or Sleep Cycle, which will track your sleep by resting your smartphone on your mattress.
Try out each of these sleep apps to see which one you like the best.
1. Sleep Score
The most detailed sleep tracking app and the best recommendations for improving your sleep. It can be used on your mattress to track sleep quality without a sleep tracking wearable.
✅ It allows you to set sleep goals and gives actionable advice for reaching them.
✅ It also provides more detailed sleep-stage data than most other apps
✅ The smart alarm does a good job of waking you up slowly, so you feel less groggy.
2. Sleep Cycle
This app is good for people who just want to see sleep patterns and how they correlate with diet and exercise. It can also be used to track sleep quality without a sleep tracking wearable.
✅ Unlike SleepScore, Sleep Cycle doesn’t show how long you were in each stage of sleep.
✅ Doesn’t provide custom advice like Sleep Score for improving sleep but the app’s clean graphs let you easily see general trends.
✅ More than a dozen smart-alarm sounds and lulling sounds to choose from.
The best-designed sleep tracking app for iPhone and Android. Rise makes it easy to track your sleep debt and optimize your circadian rhythm.
✅ Great reports that help you improve your sleep quality and daily energy levels
✅ Integrates with your calendar and helps you plan your day based on your natural rhythm
✅ Excellent recommendations and education about the science of sleep
4. AutoSleep (Apple Watch only)
The most popular Apple Watch sleep tracking app, and for good reason. It provides some of the most in-depth data, including a detailed look at sleep, sleep quality, heart rate, deep sleep, and much more.
✅ AutoSleep uses a system of rings to help you monitor those key statistics.
✅ The main interface shows you rings for sleep, sleep quality, deep sleep, and bpm.
✅ Easy-to-understand “readiness” score that attempts to predict how ready you are for the day based on your sleep for that night.
Sleep++, Pillow, and NapBot are also good alternatives for Apple Watch.