After more than a hundred hours of research, including interviews with eight sleep scientists, and more than a month spent testing four popular sleep-tracking apps (along with a range of wearables, including the Oura Ring), we found that no app offers objectively accurate sleep analysis, and they can’t replicate the experience of a traditional sleep lab. But you can use them to glean trends and patterns, which may help you improve your sleep over time.
The best sleep-tracking app
This is the most intuitive and convenient app we tested and the only one that gives detailed recommendations for improving sleep.
If you have an iPhone or a compatible Android phone, we think SleepScore (iOS, Android) will do the best job of helping you improve your sleep. It allows you to set sleep goals and gives actionable advice for reaching them. It also provides more detailed sleep-stage data than most other apps, and in our tests, its smart alarm did a pretty good job of waking us up slowly, so we felt less groggy. The free version provides general sleep advice and a record of your sleep for seven days at a time. For $50 a year (or $6 per month), SleepScore tracks and records your sleep reasonably accurately for the long term and helps you create a path toward improvement. SleepScore’s main flaw is that it only works with iPhone 6 and higher and a limited number of Android phones.
Simpler interface, less data
This app is good for people who just want to see sleep patterns and how they correlate with diet and exercise. But it doesn’t offer custom advice and tracks less data than SleepScore.
We like Sleep Cycle (iOS, Android) almost as much as SleepScore, and it’s compatible with both iPhones and Android models. But it falls short because the company is less transparent about its research on how well the technology works for tracking sleep, and the app doesn’t give much detailed sleep-stage data. Unlike SleepScore, Sleep Cycle doesn’t show how long you were in each stage of sleep. It also doesn’t give you any advice for improving your sleep. But this app’s clean graphs let you easily see general trends—which may be all you need to understand your patterns. We also love that it has more than a dozen smart-alarm sounds and lulling sounds to choose from (compared with just around half a dozen of each from SleepScore), so getting up and going to bed both feel a lot more pleasant.