Can You Track Naps on an Apple Watch?

Young woman napping on a gray couch

Not everyone gets the six to eight hours of sleep they need at night. An afternoon nap can help, but if you use your Apple Watch to track your health, fitness, activity, and sleep, naps can bring problems.

So, let’s look at the shambles that is nap tracking with an Apple Watch.

Officially, No

An Apple Health sleep schedule

The Apple Watch uses a manually set sleep schedule to determine when you’re in bed instead of, say, lying on the couch watching Netflix. Other algorithmic elements contribute as well to give your Apple Watch a good idea of your nightly sleep.

sleep mode button on an Apple Watch
The Sleep Mode toggle does almost nothing!

When you nap, you can hit the Sleep Mode button in the Control Center on your Apple Watch and iPhone, but no tracking occurs if you use it out of your assigned bedtime hours. It turns on Do Not Disturb mode, but your sleep won’t get tracked no matter how long you nap.

You can’t even set the sleep schedule to cover an entire day: It’s limited to 20 hours. This approach would also severely limit the usefulness of both your iPhone and Watch and throw up loads of false positives.

Third-Party Apps Aren’t Much Better

Third-party sleep-tracking apps, which used to be the only way to track your sleep with an Apple Watch, aren’t much better. We’ve tested each one that we could find, and only one of them—Sleep++, which we’ll look at in a moment—reliably worked.

The big problem is that the more an app tries to detect your sleep habits automatically, the worse it gets at tracking naps. The push of a button is all that’s necessary to record a nap effectively.

The Sleep++ Workaround

Sleep++, a free sleep-tracking app, lets you easily track naps. The process still isn’t perfect, but until Apple rolls out full nap support, it works well enough.

The key is that Sleep++ enables you to quickly add a sleep session for any time after the fact and then uses your Apple Watch motion data to work things out. The process goes like this:

  • Step One: Have a nap. Wear your Apple Watch, note what time you go to bed, and enjoy it!
  • Step Two: When you wake up, note the time again. Have a coffee if you’re so inclined.
  • Step Three: When you get a chance, open Sleep++ on your iPhone and tap “Record Night for [Today’s Date].”

Tap the "record night" button

  • Step Four: Adjust the Bedtime and Wake Up time according to your notes, and then tap “Add.”

Add a night in Sleep++

And just like that, your nap will get logged to the Health app, along with the rest of the automatically tracked data from your Watch.

nap tracked in apple health app

Sleep++ can also try to automatically track your sleep. However, two separate sleep-tracking apps running simultaneously tend to confuse your data. We recommend that you turn off Automatic Sleep tracking in Sleep++ and use it for manually tracking naps only.

To do so, open the app on your iPhone and tap the gear wheel Settings icon in the top-left corner.

Tap the gear wheel Settings button

Then, toggle off Automatic Sleep Tracking.

Toggle off automatic sleep tracking

And until Tim Cook gets his finger out, that’s the best that you can do.

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