The most important things to know

to choose meaningfully.


Sleep tracking apps are mobile applications developed for people who want to monitor and improve their sleep performances. Sleeping deprivation comes, for example, from a difficulty to fall or stay asleep, which might then result in tiredness during the day despite a full night’s sleep, inability to concentrate or even irritability. By recording sounds, body movements, breathing changes, and heartbeat patterns, these apps provide analytics and solutions to achieve better sleep quality.

Although inexpensive (and even free at times), these apps give a first insight into a person's sleep patterns. If one needs a preliminary analysis on his/her sleeping disorder, using a sleep tracking app is a logical first choice.  By tracking sleep patterns in a familiar home environment, the app can provide feasible solutions to the sleeping problem. By following its suggestions, the app can help avoid an unnecessary expense to the sleep doctor.

The information collected by sleep tracking apps is also useful to have a first hint on whether a person is sleep-deprived or suffering from more severe sleep disorders.  For example, sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder causing breathing to stop and repeatedly start while a person is asleep.  Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels increase blood pressure levels and stress the cardiovascular system.  Heart attacks, strokes, or sudden death can be triggered by having an irregular heartbeat.

Aside from highlighting sleep disorders, these apps can also report potential health issues that are observable during sleep.  One example is irregular heartbeats.

Although experts agree that these apps can do a decent job of detecting when one is asleep or awake, they remain sceptical of their claimed ability to detect various sleep stages. At best, these apps provide guesstimates. Everyone should be aware that these are self-help tools, not medical devices. If one has a severe sleep problem, it is still advisable to consult a doctor and get a more in-depth analysis of the problem. Monitoring brain waves in a sleep laboratory is still the recommended medical solution to sleep disorders.


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No direct impact on time savings.

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Quality of life improved thanks to the creation of affable sound environments and the cancellation of disturbing noises.

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Peace of mind increased thanks to an enhanced understanding of sleep performances and potential disorders.

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No direct impact on home costs.


Sleeping apps are categorised according to the technology used:

Accelerometers are usually used in fitness trackers to monitor movements.  Sleeping apps use the same technology to interpret being motionless as “sleeping” and moving as “being awake”. This information can be misleading because a person may be lying still while awake.  Also, some people frequently toss and turn while asleep, and the app can wrongly interpret this as being awake. Therefore, sleeping apps pair up with other technologies like optical heart-rate monitoring to give a more accurate diagnosis.

Instead of movement, this technology uses sounds of moving during sleep.  When the app “hears” less moving, it assumes that the person is in the deep stages of sleep.  However, when there is more movement “heard”, the assumption is that the person is in the lighter stages of sleep.  The information can be misleading unless paired with optical heart-rate monitoring.

With this technology, sound waves are used to analyse sleep. The phone app releases sound waves that are inaudible to people.  As the person’s chest moves while breathing, the waves are deflected from the chest.  Since breathing changes in rhythm and depth during the stages of sleep, the deflected waves vary while a person sleeps. This information is used to analyse sleep patterns.

Using the same technology as used for fitness trackers, the band’s tiny LEDs sheds light through the skin to monitor blood flow.  As the heart rate changes, the light reflected on the device also changes. Combined with movement tracking, sleep tracking apps use heart rate information in its analytical reports.


Before deciding on a sleep tracking app, explore the various features available under apps in your operating system.  Generally, the best apps are easy to use, provide practical advice, and share user-friendly reports that are easy to interpret.  It would be useless to have a very complicated app that is unable to give useful suggestions to improve sleep. Here is a list of the features you can look for in a sleeping tracking apps:

During sleep, people go through five stages. The first two stages are light sleep.  The next steps, 3-4, indicates deep sleep.  Step 5 is the “rapid eye movement” (REM) phase of deep sleep.  A person’s sleep pattern as he/she progresses from stage 1 to 5 is affected by factors like age, the amount of recent sleep or wakefulness, and the body’s internal clock. Choose apps that can accurately track these five sleep stages by monitoring changes in movements, heart rate, body temperature or breathing.

With its ability to track sleep patterns, an app can alert its users on the best time to wake up.  Instead of being roused during the deep sleep stage, the app wakes up its users during the light sleep stage.  However, if the sleeping disorder is due to oversleeping, the sleep tracking app can also trigger the alarm to wake.

The app can also function as a bedtime alert.  After providing information like your age and the time when you need to wake up, the app will remind you when it is the best time to go to bed.  Of course, being on vacation overrides this feature. Apps can be customised to use alarm sounds from your iTunes library.

Some apps have a white noise library to induce sleep. White noise aids sleep by masking out background noise.  Sleeping apps are also integrated with Spotify or Itunes library to load calm music or specially curated sounds.

Some people talk while they sleep, especially on the dream stage 5 of the sleep cycle. There are sleep tracking apps that can record these sleep talks. This information can give important clues about the causes of anxiety, dreams, or nightmares. 

Loud and frequent snoring is one of the signs of sleep apnea.  It can also be indicative of nasal problems or having a narrow airway due to overweight. Choose a sleep tracking app that saves audio records and creates analytical reports.

Aside from snoring, apps can detect sleep apnea by monitoring a person’s breathing sounds while asleep.  People who are suffering from apnea stop breathing repeatedly. If one has a severe sleep problem, it is still advisable to consult a doctor and get a more in-depth analysis of the problem.

Sleeping tracking apps can monitor heartbeats.  Potential heart problems like heart arrhythmia can be detected. If one has a severe sleep problem, it is still advisable to consult a doctor and get a more in-depth analysis of the problem.

With its capacity to track sleep patterns, apps assist in overcoming jet lag by waking up its users during the light sleep phase.  Gradually adjusting to new time zones becomes easier.



Since the sleep tracking app uses the microphone and accelerometer to monitor sounds and movements while asleep, it is essential to place the smartphone correctly.  It should be near the bed, either on a side table (better, in order not to disturb sleep) or on the mattress, depending on the app instructions.


Sleep tracking apps are designed to address different user needs; you need to choose the features that are relevant for you and customise them. For instance, you can choose among white noise, nature sounds, or meditation music to lull you to sleep. There are also various wake-up calls to choose from. Set the timer to save on battery life.


Although sleep tracking apps release valuable information, it can be tempting to rely entirely on its results. However, there are still practical ways to reduce sleep deprivation. Sleeping and waking up at regular times helps stabilise your internal body clock. Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants, and exercising close to bedtime will prepare the body for sleep. Keeping the sleeping area as comfortable as possible by dimming lights and reducing noise.


Since sleeping apps are in your smartphone, make sure that you have a fully-charged smartphone before sleeping. Turn on alert notifications to update the app version. Ensure that your microphone is working well since capturing sounds is essential to sleeping apps. You will also need sufficient phone storage space to store data. Audio files typically require significant storage space, especially if tracking sleeping patterns across months.

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