↑ Return to Better Mood Tracker

Sleeping with Sleep Tracker

Sleeping With Better Sleep Tracking Technology

If this is your first time using a sleep tracker of any kind, this page will help you understand the Do’s and Don’ts of using your device for sleep tracking. However, if you already know how to use sleep tracker, and would rather know what does all this sleep tracking data means, please check this page for detailed explanation of what your sleep statistics mean.

Why use Better Sleep Tracker?

Sleep tracking produces attractive sleep cycle graphs that contain information about your sleep onset, awakenings and sleep phases

Simply put, to learn more about your sleep and it’s effect on your health:

  • How long it takes for you to fall asleep?
  • How many times do you wake up at night?
  • Do you wake up in light or deep sleep stage?

Until smartphones came along, the only way for you to track your sleep was to spend a few nights in a sleep lab (~3000$ per night), buy an expensive, bulky and hard to use actigraph unit (500$), or recruit a family member to sit by your bed and watch you sleep. With the introduction of smartphones, you have access to fairly accurate sleep tracking with Actigraphy… FOR FREE! There’s no reason not to take a look at your sleep graph, or check how long it really takes you to fall asleep.

How Better Sleep Tracker works.

Better Sleep Tracker uses your phone to monitor your movements over night. These movements tell the app about your sleep, and there’s quite a lot of information that can be obtained about your sleep through movement. The sensors within iPhone 4 are comparable in accuracy to sensors used by commercial actigraphs, and I’ve worked for over a year and a half on sleep tracking algorithms, that may even detect dreaming in some cases.


Calibrating your iPhone . 

Calibration takes about a minute, put the device on your mattress. Touch start and wait for the sound cue

Your phone is slightly different from mine. Your bed is slightly different. This is why you need to calibrate your device once, before first use for most accurate results. Sleep tracking will still work without it, but the results may be off, sometimes quite significantly. Calibration is simple and only takes a minute. Follow on-screen instructions and close the calibration screen once done.


Getting Ready To sleep.

If this is your first time using a sleep tracker, you need to know the following:

Fully charged iPhone, at 100% battery can track sleep in airplane mode with the dimmest screen setting for about 9 hours. In the morning this will leave your device with 10-20% battery life left. Not good if you need to go to work. This is why you need to find a power source and charge your iPhone with the power cable overnight.  A power source can be a power outlet, or one of the portable power packs that you can recharge over the course of the day.

Sleep tracking requires your device to detect your movements. While the phone can be put anywhere on the bed, it is better if the phone is ~1 foot away from your body, touching the mattress. Leaving the phone in the same spot every night improves accuracy.

Instructions for better sleep tracker. Tapping the green clock dims the screen.

If you have a screen protector on, and are feeling adventurous, you can purchase an armband or a wristband and put the phone in that. Strapping the wristband to your non-dominant hand (left hand if you are right handed) results in the best detection accuracy, but you need to put your iPhone into Wristband mode from preferences. Sleeping with a wristband may feel uncomfortable for the first couple nights, but I got used to that quickly, and have been sleeping with a wristband for a couple months over the course of the last year without negative side effects. You can also put the device in between two socks and keep it on your foot. Make sure you got a screen protector on, or you will scratch the screen and reduce the resale value of your iPhone.

Unless my app makes top 25, Apple will not allow me to run sleep tracking when iOS device is turned off with the power button. This means that the phone’s screen must be on while sleep tracking is taking place. To protect your screen:

  • Go to your device’s settings mode and set brightness to the minimum for the night.
  • While in preferences, enable airplane mode too, so the phone radiates less energy.

Many, MANY people ask me: Will sleeping with a screen on will ruin the screen? The answer that I give them is that I’ve slept with my iPhone 4’s screen dimly lit every night for ~9 hours a night for the past year, and I use my iOS devices for development (so the screen is on for up to 14 hours a day at medium brightness), and I have not seen any noticeable decrease in screen performance or brightness . My Android device is also on for extended periods of time. This is hundreds of hours of screen being on, and no side effects. If the backlight on the device does die at some point, I inquired that replacing an iPhone screen (you do not need to change the whole device) costs ~75$ at my local cell phone repair shop. This is a price I’m willing to pay for understanding my sleep.

Back to sleep tracking. By now, you have obtained a power source for your iPhone, put it on your mattress, enabled airplane mode and turned down the brightness. The device is in front of you, and you see the green clock label on top and a go to sleep button on the bottom.

Now you need to tap the “Go To Sleep” button. The screen will change, and the status bar and the toolbar will disappear. Sleep tracking has started. The device continuously analyzes your motion and converts it into sleep data. (For more information about your sleep data, check this article) .

Sleep tracker allows you to track “Sleep” category of events over the course of the night. If you add additional events to sleep category, you will see them in the scrollable lists of icons in the middle of the screen. Each icon has been enlarged, so you can easily reach and see it from the prone position with sleepy eyes. See next section for how to use the icons.

The only thing that you need to do is dim the screen for the night. To do so, tap the green clock label (there’s a lightbulb next to it). This puts a black screensaver on your iPhone. To remove the screensaver, tap on the screen.

If you do not want to use event tracking overnight, simply turn the phone over, so the screen does not shine light.

Why use sleep tracking events?

When you are tracking your sleep at night, you can reach over to the phone, and tap on one of the large icons in the middle of the screen to add a marker to your

Tracking events over night helps you track dreams, insomnia, and other events (like food) if you so desire

history. Here are some cool things that you can do with these icons:

  • Track insomnia. If you are laying in bed, unable to sleep, and want a manual record of how long you were awake, reach out to the screen once in a while and tap the insomnia marker. This puts an “Eye” icon on your history, so you can keep track of how long you were awake.
  • Track dreams. If you remember your dreams, you may occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and remember that you just saw a dream. In such case, you can reach out and use the “Dream” marker to mark the time of dream awakening on your history.
  • Additional category of sleep events are open to interpretation, and you can change their names. For example, you can track episodes of loud snoring of your partner or notice when loud music from the neighbors annoys you.

Obviously, reaching out to the screen requires energy, and for best sleep quality you will not be interacting with the device very often overnight, but having occasional marker or two helps a lot with understanding your sleep graph.

Sleep Tracking and Reminders

If you have set the app to remind you a few times a day, remember that these reminders are scheduled once a day only, and sleep tracker is what schedules them. It’s simple:

  • Waking up from sleep tracker schedules reminders for the day
  • Going to sleep with sleep tracker cancels all reminders for the day.

This is done so your phone will not play reminders when you are asleep. Otherwise, the app may accidentally play a reminder when you are in bed, which is not a good experience. This is why I encourage you to try sleep tracking, so the app can intelligently schedule reminders over the course of the day!


Comments? Suggestions?

Thank you for your interest in the app! Due to spambots praising my site, I require all new posts to be manually approved, which may take some time. Fear not, I hear your suggestions, and respond to comments once every month or two, so check back once in a while to see your question answered. You can also send me an email using the address provided in the About tab.