watchOS 7 includes sleep tracking support.
For many years, Apple fans have been speculating when the company’s smart watches will start tracking sleep. Now we finally have the next version of Apple Watch software, WatchOS 7, which is different from what we saw before.
Apple announced its sleep tracking feature at its developer conference WWDC last week. But this is not a new area of interest for the company. Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president for Apple Watch software, told CNBC that the company has been studying sleep technology extensively for years.
He said: “When you first started to sleep, some of these things were not obvious, it took us a while to get there.”
Because of this research, Apple decided to focus on setting and achieving simple goals instead of collecting and analyzing data about users’ sleeping habits. For those who cling to the data and track their stages (for example, they record the hours of REM sleep), this may not be the right technique. However, sleep medicine experts are cautious about providing consumers with too much information without sufficient background. They told CNBC that this is one of the best methods at present.
Here’s how Apple’s sleep tracking technology works and why it’s different:
The danger of too much data
Some people like to track their health data in the most granular way. Some devices from Fitbit and other companies provide a window where you can use motion sensors and heart rate tracking to learn about these different sleep stages, including light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement sleep.
However, too much information can also produce negative results. Experts have recently created a new disease called “insomnia”, which makes a person too focused on getting a perfect sleep through a wearable device, causing them to develop sleep-related anxiety. This may make it difficult for them to get decent night sleep.
Dr. Seema Khosla, The medical director of the North Dakota Sleep Center saw these patients in her clinic. Using data from wearable devices, they shared unfounded concerns about sleep quality and duration.
In an interview with CNBC, she said: “I have actually made the patient accept the exercise.” “This made me realize that we need to think more about the data displayed.”
Apple’s Lynch suggested that the information about sleep collected through smart watches is not always accurate. The company has studied a variety of sleep tracking over the years, including recording brain waves through EEG, and determined that it is very difficult to use a wrist-worn device to measure “a complete picture of what is happening in the brain.”
Kevin Lynch of Apple at the keynote speech at the Apple World Developers Conference (WWDC) 2020, the speech was held at Apple Park in Cupertino, California on June 22, 2020 .
Brooks Kraft / Apple Inc / handout
In addition, Apple generally does not want to send bad news to users, including their abnormal sleep. Therefore, the company provides very little data on sleep time and sleep quality. You may see awake and sleep time, but you won’t see the most detailed information about the sleep cycle.
Instead, Apple requires Apple Watch wearers to set a goal for how much sleep they want to get, and then push them to gradually relax before going to bed.
In the end, Lynch said, this is about using user psychology.
He said: “We want to be seen as a useful supplement, not another source of frustration and anxiety.” “We try to come up with a broad idea of what might happen and refine it as simply as possible before we can Simplify it.”
Roy Raymann, the former sleep czar of Apple, agreed with this approach. Roy Lehman is now the chief science officer of SleepScore Labs, a sleep technology company.
He said: “In general, consumers are looking for improved tools rather than measuring tools.” For example, Raymann said that stepping on a bathroom scale will not help a person lose weight tomorrow. Similarly, overloading a person with data on their REM sleep time may not help them improve their sleep.
“and so [Apple] I focus on measurement as a way to achieve behaviors that achieve sleep health goals. This is the overall view I support. “
One of the new features involves a setting called Wind Down, which is designed to help users go to bed earlier. The idea is that people can set up a bedtime program on their watch, including using the meditation app when the screen goes black and the notification is muted.
In the morning, the Apple Watch will emit a silent vibration alarm, or a quiet sound to slowly wake up the user.
Apple’s Lynch said that the company has considered Wind Down a lot because it has received consistent feedback from users that their biggest challenge is bedtime.
He said: “So, we researched techniques that can be used to help people transition to sleep.” “This is the balance between support and reminders.”
Khosla said the feature reminded her of the operations she would perform manually for her patients. Usually, she sets bedtime alarms for them, which means that all devices need to be turned off. At that time, they stopped scrolling on social media.
She said: “I have some patients who really like it, and even cannot use the function on their phones even after a while.”
Other experts in sleep medicine said that the “tailwind” and tracking functions are useful, but there is no need to improve electronic products. Sometimes, pen and paper are enough.
Dr. Allan Mishra, a plastic surgeon at the Stanford University School of Healthcare, studies and educates on sleep. He says he likes Apple’s simple approach, focusing on active reinforcement rather than just relying on indicators. But he advised his students to find a sleep relaxation strategy that suits them, whether it is exercise or meditation, and consider using a pen and paper to try a sleep diary.
He said: “I think that the best way to track sleep is a sleep diary, not an electronic device.”