Sleep Tracking Could Be Coming to the Apple Watch Series 5 After All

Woman Wearing Apple Watch In Bed Credit: Photosumm / Shutterstock
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Although we haven’t heard much about what will be coming to the Apple Watch Series 5, we do know that Apple is expected to launch it alongside the 2019 iPhone lineup, and with Apple’s big fall event only a week away, we’re starting to see the typical last-minute product leaks as Apple prepared the new hardware to ship.

We heard reports earlier this year that Apple was working on sleep tracking for a future model of Apple Watch, although those rumours pegged it as being farther off — perhaps as early as 2020, but not likely before. Now, however 9to5Mac has learned from sources within Apple that the new sleep tracking feature could actually be announced alongside the Apple Watch Series 5 and watchOS 6 next week.

According to those people familiar with the feature, it won’t actually require any special hardware to work, meaning that it’s unlikely to be an Apple Watch Series 5 exclusive feature, but could be a surprise baked into the watchOS 6 update. The feature is codenamed “Burrito” internally and is actually called “Time in Bed tracking” suggesting that it’s likely similar to the Bedtime iPhone feature that Apple added back in iOS 10.

Wearing Your Watch to Bed

Still, an Apple Watch implementation of “Bedtime” would actually be far more useful and accurate than what Apple has included on the iPhone. The iPhone version of the feature relies largely on how you actually use your iPhone to determine when you’re in bed, so it’s not tremendously accurate unless you put your iPhone down right before you go to sleep and pick it up first thing in the morning.

The Apple Watch feature would require you to wear your Apple Watch to bed, and therefore naturally leverage the sensors to determine when you actually lie down and when you get up, since of course the wearable can already determine this sort of data much more effectively.

According to sources, however, the feature won’t just track the amount of time you spend in bed, but also data such as movement, heart rate, and noises. We already know that ambient noise monitoring is coming in watchOS 6, and it’s possible that this may have been one of the missing pieces of the puzzle that Apple needed to add for effective sleep tracking.

A new “Sleep” app for the Apple Watch will be introduced to provide data about the quality of sleep, which will also be reported into the iOS Health app, of course. A new watch face complication is also being added for sleep tracking.

In addition to tracking sleep data, the new “Bedtime” system will also reportedly add several other useful features, such as automatically turning off a user’s morning alarm if they wake up and start their day early, or using a silent, vibration-only wake up alarm on the Apple Watch, as well automatically enabling and disabling Do Not Disturb based on when the user is actually in bed, as opposed to relying on a fixed schedule.

Battery Life

Although it makes sense that sleep tracking shouldn’t require any new hardware for the feature itself — after all, the Apple Watch already includes enough movement, heart rate, and noise sensors to do the job quite well — there is still one big issue that may need to be addressed, and that’s the question of battery life.

Although some users already wear their Apple Watch to bed, the wearable was designed to be charged overnight while users sleep — Apple even includes a “nightstand mode” to be displayed when the device is on the charger. As a result, Apple has never really put any emphasis on fast charging the Apple Watch, and current models can take up to 2.5 hours for a full charge — something that’s not a problem when it’s sitting on your nightstand while you sleep, but might be more difficult to fit into your daily routine.

So wearing the Apple Watch to bed will require either extended battery life, faster charging, a night-time “low power mode” or simply better management of when you choose to charge the wearable. Sources also say that the new feature will be designed to work for users who have more than one Apple Watch as well by allowing them to designate a specific one to be their “bedtime” watch.

Although we’re sure Apple would love it if everybody bought two Apple Watches, we don’t think this is a realistic solution, so hopefully the Apple Watch Series 5 will offer battery and power management improvements that will make the sleep tracking feature much more viable. In that case, Apple could choose to restrict it only to the Series 5, or make it available to older models and simply let users deal with the battery charging issues; the feature is also said to include a reminder for users to charge their Watch before bedtime, but this is still likely to complicate people’s schedules and may force them to choose between meeting their daily fitness goals and taking advantage of sleep tracking. In this case, improved battery life or charging on the Apple Watch Series 5 would be an even more compelling feature to encourage users to upgrade to the latest model, which is said to otherwise only be offering incremental improvements.

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