What is Sleep Analysis & Sleep Stages

Apple introduced Sleep Stages into its Sleep app as part of the WatchOS 9 release. This allows users with an Apple Watch Series 4 or above to access Sleep Stage data like REM and Deep stage sleep. Those on an Apple Watch Series 3 or below, AutoSleep Sleep Analysis still works perfectly for all the older models of Apple Watch.

AutoSleep has built integration to the Apple Sleep Stages. So users have an amazing choice on the type of sleep data they wish to see populated within AutoSleep. Users can happily continue with the AutoSleep Sleep Analysis data, switch to the Apple Sleep Stages data that comes from the Apple Sleep app, or toggle between both! Switching modes is super easy, and AutoSleep will remember the most recently selected mode on start-up. See the below instructions for 'Turning on Sleep Stages in AutoSleep' to understand more. Whichever sleep mode you select, you still get to use AutoSleep for all the fantastic insights and functions which is where the real value sits.

Should I Use the AutoSleep Sleep Analysis Mode or the Apple Sleep Stages Mode?

You can choose at any time which mode you prefer to use, as options are always better than none! Both modes run in parallel and your historical data will always be there building for both in the background regardless of which mode you select (provided permissions and access are setup for both of course). AutoSleep has been designed to help you easily evaluate and test which mode feels better for you. The value in both models is in evaluating trends and variances in your personal data over time rather than looking at a single night's data in isolation or comparing to others.

Using the Apple Sleep App

Sleep Stage data comes from the Apple Sleep app, so if you want to switch modes to Sleep Stages, you will need to use the Apple Sleep app to capture sleep data. We will say it again as this catches some users out, you must have Sleep Stage data being recorded by the Apple Sleep app to be able to use it in AutoSleep. Here is the official Apple support link for using the Sleep app. Noting that Apple are the primary support contacts for the Sleep app, to save you some time we have listed a couple key items below that need to be setup in order to collect sleep stage data:

(1) Track Sleep with Apple Watch - open the Watch app on your iPhone (it looks like a black icon of a Watch). Scroll down and tap on 'Sleep'. Make sure that 'Track Sleep with Apple Watch' is turned on (see below):

(2) Sleep Focus - at bedtime, you need to ensure your Watch is in Sleep Focus mode to capture sleep stage data. Swipe up on your Watch face to open the Control Centre, tap on the half moon icon to open the Focus/Do Not Disturb options. Tap on Sleep to enable the Sleep Focus mode, the half moon icon will change to a bed icon. This will turn off the Watch display and put it into a Do Not Disturb mode (see below).

Note: if you are using Apple's Sleep Schedules, there is an option called 'Use Schedule for Sleep Focus'. If this is on Sleep Focus will turn on and off at the scheduled set times, so you might find it turns off Sleep Focus while you are still asleep if you slept past your wake schedule, resulting in missed/incorrect data. This especially catches out users on weekends. The easiest solution is to turn this off and just turn Sleep Focus on and off manually as needed.

(3) Health Data - using the Apple Sleep app will send data to the Health app on your iPhone. This is where AutoSleep will reference the data from. Below shows a sample from the Health app with the Apple Sleep Stages graph.

Once you have Sleep Stages data coming in, refer to the next section about 'turning on in AutoSleep'. You will need at least one night of Sleep Stage data from the Apple Sleep app to view it in AutoSleep.

Turning on Sleep Stages in AutoSleep

For AutoSleep to use Sleep Stages, you have 2 locations to turn Sleep Stages mode on or off in the AutoSleep iPhone app:

  • Activating in the Settings tab (or)

  • Activating in the Sleep Session graph

Both locations will remember the current setting, so updating one spot updates the other. Both options are explained in detail below.

Activating in Settings

Go into the AutoSleep Settings tab and then tap on the menu item called Sleep Stages. A switch will appear that you can toggle on to use Sleep Stages.

Activating in the Sleep Session Graph

You can also turn Sleep Stages on or off while in the Today tab or Clock tab in AutoSleep, by tapping on the Sleep Session graph. The Sleep Session graph contains a heading with 2 options, called Sleep Analysis and Sleep Stages. To activate just tap on the mode you wish to use (Sleep Analysis or Sleep Stages). AutoSleep will remember and apply the most recent mode selected. This selection updates the appropriate changes across the entire AutoSleep app instantly.

See the below image where I can toggle between both modes by tapping one or the other:

When you switch between Sleep Analysis and Sleep Stages mode, you may notice data differences as both modes are classifying sleep differently. The main thing with either model is just being consistent with the mode you select. The value in both models is in evaluating trends and variances in your personal data over time rather than looking at a single night's data in isolation or comparing to others.

Option 1 - Sleep Analysis (AutoSleep app)

Sleep Analysis uses the AutoSleep sleep tracking data. This is the default mode when you first install and use the app. This mode uses your Watchโ€™s accelerometer and heart rate sensor directly to identify sleep. Using standardised rules, sleep is then classified into phases including Awake, Light, Still and Deeper sleep.

Note - Sleep Analysis mode is supported across all series of Apple Watches

Option 2 - Sleep Stages (Apple Sleep app)

Sleep Stages uses the Apple Sleep data, which is found under Sleep in the Health app. This mode uses machine learning to give an estimation of sleep stages based on typical sleep patterns. Sleep is classified into Awake, REM, Light and Deep stage sleep.

Note - Sleep Stages mode is only supported on Apple Watch Series 4 or higher with WatchOS 9 or above. Also note that Apple use the term Core for Light sleep, we use the term Light to ensure consistency across both modes.

Refer to the 'Using Sleep Stages' section below to understand more on the associated changes once this mode is enabled.

Using Sleep Stages

Using the Sleep Stages mode will insert the Apple Sleep Stage data into AutoSleep. Note that in order to capture sleep stage data, your Watch needs to be in Sleep Focus mode at bedtime along with the appropriate permissions such as 'Track Sleep on Watch' from the Watch app settings. If there is no Sleep Stage data in your iPhone Health app, then AutoSleep will not be able to report on it.

If you do choose the Sleep Stage mode, the initial change you will notice is that it will update the Sleep Session graph, similar to the one Apple uses in the Health app for displaying Sleep Stages. We have improved the graph by adding a more granular level of display, along with the micro pop-ups to allow the overlapping of heart rate, SpO2, noise, respiration and even motion, showing how you moved minute by minute. Better yet, you don't have to go digging through the Health app to find it!

The other main change using Sleep Stages mode, is that it will add in the REM stage and Deep stage. It will update the entire AutoSleep app across all the pages needed including the Clock Rings and cells, Today sleep ratings and rings, Sleep Sessions, Exports, Setting Goals, Siri Shortcuts and Dictionary, Explore views, Widgets, History and even the Watch.

For example, see below an example of the Sleep Rings updating depending which mode is selected:

Sleep Stages will also update the Watch app, with the Sleep Rings updating and a new Session menu option to view the sleep stages in a graph:

Sleep Stages Classifications

As Sleep Stages uses slightly different classification names, AutoSleep will instantly adjust automatically with the following:

  • REM sleep stage and Deep stage will be added if Sleep Stages is enabled (see above image)

  • Quality sleep and Deep sleep will be hidden if Sleep Stages is enabled

  • Awake and Light sleep will remain for both modes. Note that Light sleep is called Core Sleep in the Apple Sleep app


Sleep Calibration & Adjust

The other major benefit is that AutoSleep allows an Adjust/Calibration function that you can apply to the Sleep Stages modes. This means we get a much more accurate total duration of sleep as we can teach the model to better reflect time asleep and awake times. This function is not available in the Apple Sleep app.

Note that if you are using the 'Awake Stage' switch which is found in Settings - Sleep Stages (more information on this below), it will still calibrate going to bed and waking up. But not the time in between as this is pulling from the Apple Sleep app. Adjust can be found on the Clock tab (see below).

As mentioned above, it is important to understand the main thing with either model is just being consistent with the mode you select.

REM Sleep & Deep Stage Goals

If you are using Sleep Stages, REM & Deep Stage will be replaced on the sleep rings, so we can setup an individual goal for them in AutoSleep by going into Settings - Set Goals. Make sure you are in the Sleep Stages mode when you go to Set Goals as they will only appear if you are already in Sleep Stages mode. Remember you can change to Sleep Stages from the AutoSleep Settings menu (see above).

The default for Deep Stage will be set to 15%.

For REM, most people achieve 20-25% of sleep time in REM, by default this is assigned 20% but you can easily change as needed. This goal is used for the sleep rings and ratings.

Sleep Start & End Times

For both modes we use the AutoSleep detection for sleep start and end times. This is essential in using multiple modes along with the Lights Off function. Additional to Lights Off, AutoSleep allows calibration to help with this, meaning we get a more accurate duration of sleep time.

Using Awake Stage

As part of the Sleep Stage settings, you can also elect to use the 'Awake Stage' that pulls in the times you were awake from the Apple Sleep Stages. This is found in the "AutoSleep Settings - Sleep Stages" menu option.

We have made this as an option instead of just applying it automatically, as it will limit some popular functions in AutoSleep such as Lights Off if applied. This is a very advanced setting so most users will not have a need for this. By default this switch is off and we use the AutoSleep awake time as it also includes disruptions in its calculation and users can use the Lights Off function. If you have no need of these functions, then you may like to use this awake stage function.

Turning on 'Use Awake Stage' will change the time asleep so be sure you are confident with the Sleep Stages awake time before activating, as it will update everything in the app that uses time asleep like sleep bank, efficiency, sleep rings, graphs, history, widgets and so on. The choice is yours to make, but we have noted in testing that AutoSleep is more advanced at detecting this, as it factors in disrupted sleep where the Apple detection doesnโ€™t always do this. The other major consideration is you can also use the Lights Off feature in AutoSleep to track sleep latency, not available in the Apple sleep app.

What About Naps

Naps greater than 30 minutes will automatically appear using the AutoSleep Sleep Analysis mode. However in the Apple Sleep Stages mode these same naps will not appear unless you manually enabled the sleep focus mode before nodding off.

Not Seeing Sleep Stage Data?

You have AutoSleep Sleep Analysis data but no Apple Sleep Stage data showing like the image below? Could be a number of things, but the most common ones are:

  • You have not setup the Watch to Track Sleep in the Watch app settings (requirement by Apple to track)

  • You did not put the Watch into Sleep Focus mode at bedtime (requirement by Apple to track)

  • Did you use low power mode? This restricts background heart rate measures so will most likely show as an error instead of blank data

  • Please also note there is a slight delay in the processing of the sleep stage data. The data will only start to process once you turn off the Sleep Focus mode on your Watch. We have seen reports on this where it can take time for the Sleep app to process the sleep stages data. Once processed, it will then allow AutoSleep to display the information. Before it processes it may look like this, as AutoSleep is awaiting the REM and Deep Stage data from the Sleep data:

I Am Only Seeing 2 Sleep Rings Instead of 4

Where did all my sleep rings go? Some users may be unaware of the different modes and have switched to sleep stage tracking mode even though you do not capture sleep stage data using the Apple Sleep app. You have 2 ways to turn this off and default back to the AutoSleep sleep analysis tracking:

(1) By Settings tab:

  • Go into the AutoSleep Settings tab and scroll down to 'Sleep Stages'

  • Turn off the switch for Sleep Stages. This will now default back to the AutoSleep Sleep Analysis mode

(2) By Sleep Session Graph:

  • Go into the sleep session graph by touching the graph on the Today tab, or the Clock tab.

  • Press sleep analysis instead of sleep stages above the graph

Health Permission Settings

The Apple Sleep app and AutoSleep work completely independently of each other, so you can use both quite happily. You do not have to remove any health permissions. As both apps work separately you don't have to worry about seeing duplicated sleep data if you have read/write permissions enabled for both apps.

Collected Historical WatchOS 9 Data?

This one for the minority, but if some users were on the WatchOS 9 and collected sleep stage data, just touch each day on the Clock tab and it will reload.

Sleep Session Micro Pop-Up Graph

If you would like to understand more about the Sleep Session graph, overlapping items like blood oxygen, noise and respiration rate to your sleep, please refer to the Sleep page here.

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