New features on the iPhone help you figure out a bedtime routine, encourage you to stick with it, and monitor your progress for improved sleep. Here’s how to get started.
Poor quality, inconsistent, and insufficient sleep can make life miserable. While a variety of reasons cause sleep problems, one of the steps to figuring out what they are is to create a consistent bedtime and waking routine. That way, you can begin eliminating factors and start collecting data about your sleep to look for patterns, clues, or just clear information to share with a health professional. As of iOS 14, iPhone has some new sleep features that can help.
What these features don’t do is figure out precisely what time you fall asleep or track your every toss and turn. If you want that level of detail, you can get it by wearing an Apple Watch or other compatible fitness trackers overnight to monitor your sleep. If you don’t have a watch or tracker, you can still use the iPhone’s sleep features. All you need is your phone.
The first time you set up your sleep preferences, the app walks you through each piece that you can set up. There are three of them:
Sleep mode: Which settings your phone will enable while you sleep, such as Do Not Disturb, and what apps will be available on your lock screen
To set up a sleep schedule, start in the Health app and either tap on or search for Sleep. You may also see an automated prompt to set up a Sleep Schedule in the Clock app the next time you set an alarm. This prompt sends you to the Health app and then walks you through all the setup steps.
However you get there, the first step is to think about your nightly sleep in a big-picture way by asking these questions: How much sleep do you want to get each night? What time do you need to wake up? What time should you go to bed?
On the screen, you see a clock and a spanner that indicates the sleep and wake times you set. As you adjust them, the spanner turns orange if the total sleep time is less than your goal. For example, if your goal is to sleep eight-and-a-half hours, and you need to wake up at 6:10 a.m., then a bedtime of 10:00 p.m. will be insufficient. You can play with the dial to see how your bedtime and wake time affect your total sleep time.
When you set your sleep schedule, you choose which days of the week you want it to apply. You can also decide whether you want an alarm at your scheduled wake time and if you want the option to snooze when it rings.
Finally, you can create multiple sleep schedules if you need different routines for different days of the week. For example, if you take turns with early morning child care or you like to exercise early a few days a week, you can create a Monday-Wednesday-Friday routine that’s different from the other days.
The next sleep feature is called Sleep mode. When enabled, Sleep mode automatically puts your phone into Do Not Disturb mode during your scheduled sleep time. It automatically disables Do Not Disturb after your wake time. It’s optional, meaning if you want to use Sleep Schedule and not Sleep mode, that’s totally fine.
When Do Not Disturb is on, your phone won’t beep, ring, or buzz for notifications or calls unless there’s someone you want to be able to get through. Additionally, if anyone calls you twice within three minutes, the second call isn’t silenced. That way, a true emergency call, such as from a hospital, can get through no matter what.
Let’s talk more about making exceptions. Say you want calls from your significant other and children to always ring. You can “allow calls from” those people by marking them as exceptions.
The way to create exceptions is to either mark them as Favorites in your Contacts app or create a group and then add them to the Allow Calls From section of Do Not Disturb. The easiest way to mark Favorites is to: 1) open the Phone app, 2) tap Favorites, 3) tap the + at the top left, and 4) choose the contacts you want to add (here’s how to chow to create a group).
Then, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb > Allow Calls From and choose the appropriate answer, either Favorites or the group you created.
How can you tell when Do Not Disturb is active? A moon icon appears in the status bar.
The last sleep feature is called Wind Down. The idea is to give yourself some amount of time before you get into bed to prepare for sleep. For your phone, this means customizing your lock screen with only apps that will help you sleep, rather than apps that keep you up all night.
Like Sleep mode, Wind Down is entirely optional. If you want to try it, just decide how many minutes before bedtime you want your wind down to start. Then you select shortcuts for apps to put on your lock screen, with the hope that they help you create a pre-bed routine. For example, you might choose a shortcut to turn off your smart lights, launch a meditation app, and open a white noise app. Other popular routines include playing audiobooks or podcasts, journaling in a journaling app, and reading.
Here’s how to set up Wind Down: From the Health app, go to Sleep > Full Schedule & Options > Wind Down Shortcuts. From there, you can add a shortcut or remove an existing one. Frustratingly, you can’t drag and drop items to reorder them at this time.
Once you set up these sleep features, your iPhone will begin estimating when you get into bed and when you get out of bed, based on when you put down and pick up your phone. It also tracks how often and for how long you pick up your phone throughout the night.
You can view these records in the Health app. Time spent in bed appears as a blue line. Any gaps in the line show when you picked up your phone. You can scroll through time to view the history of your data, change the view from week to month, and dive into other stats such as average time in bed and average time asleep.
If you only use your phone (no Apple Watch, fitness tracker, or other sleep tracking devices), you won’t really have an accurate record of when you fell asleep and woke up. You can enter those estimated times manually, however, if it’s something you want to track and monitor. If you do have a compatible device, you can make sure your phone captures and saves those types of data points automatically.
Monitoring sleep, creating consistent sleep and wake times, and developing positive bedtime habits are often just the first steps in getting more and higher-quality rest. They are a solid place to start, but they may not be the end of the line for many people.
You can also try limiting blue light exposure at night, using an Amazon Alexa device to lull you to sleep, and trying sleep technology products.
Most important of all, be sure to address your sleep problems with a doctor or medical professional. Sleep really is an integral part of health and affects both acute and chronic health problems, from heart disease to depression. Having the most basic information about your sleep routine, such as sleep and wake times, can help make these conversations with health care teams a little easier.
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Sleep, iPhone, Nightmare, Bedtime
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