A good night’s sleep is extremely important. It has been linked to long life, less stress, more energy, and even loss of weight (if you are obese). But getting a good night’s sleep, as opposed to just sleeping, are two totally different things. Sleeping is one thing, but if that sleep is low quality, then your body is not going to reap the benefits.

Believe it or not, there is actually a flourishing science to the whole concept of proper sleeping. There are lots of smartphone apps jumping into this fledgling industry promising to help you get better Z’s. There are the big names like Fitbit that measure how often you move around in your sleep, and then use that to judge your restfulness (or lack of). Others need you to have your phone next to you, so they can listen to you breathing (which to me is a bit creepy).

Then you have iOS’s Bedtime feature, which was built into the alarm clock app in iOS 10, and integrated with the Health App. But is it any good? I decided to have a sleep on company time to find out.

Go To Bed With iOS Bedtime

As I said, you will find iOS Bedtime inside the Alarm Clock App. It is the icon in the middle of a bed, entitled “Bedtime” (in case you get lost).

ios bedtime

First you obviously need to configure it, if this is your first time using it. Start by flipping the green switch on at the top to activate everything.

Then tap “Options” in the top-left hand corner. This brings up some things you need to decide.

ios bedtime

As the screenshot shows, you first need to decide what days of the week you want to use iOS Bedtime for. Perhaps you want it switched off at the weekends so you can have a lie-in?

Next, choose when you want your iOS device to remind you to get ready for bed. Tapping on “Bedtime Reminder” will bring up the options. Since I am a slow “going to bed” person, with all my routines, I chose the maximum 60 minutes.

ios bedtime

Finally, choose your “Wake-Up Sound” from the wide array of terrible clanging, banging, and ringing noises that iOS likes to offer. I strongly recommend “Bright-Eyed”. It has a kind of ambient/zen feel to it. Heavy sleepers may not hear it though.

If you’d prefer not to have a noise, you can have the phone vibrate instead. As yet, you can’t upload a custom song or ringtone to use. So no “Highway To Hell right now (sorry, heavy sleepers).

Coming back to the main screen, use your finger to turn the dials on the clock face to set your going-to-bed time and getting-up time. Since I am having an afternoon nap, in the name of research, I set my times for 3.30pm – 4.00pm.

ios bedtime

The eagle-eyed among you will notice the time on my phone is 3.44pm, so my “nap” actually started 15 minutes ago!

For night-time sleeping, the usual recommendation is 8 hours. Some people can manage on 6, while others are cranky if they don’t get 10. So decide for yourself how long you need. But try to aim for 8 hours if you can.

How Does It Measure Sleep?

ios bedtime

So how does it work? Purely by counting the number of hours you sleep for each night, and presenting those as bars in the Bedtime app and also in the Health App (if you use the Health app). If you are having trouble sleeping, you can show your doctor your sleeping hours in the Health app.

ios bedtime

If you are hoping for more detailed stats, then you would need to use Fitbit or another smartphone app. All iOS Bedtime does is challenge you to get into bed at the same times every night, and keep those bars at the same level. A bit like a game.

To get you into bed at the same time every night, it reminds you in advance to get ready. Then it wakes you at the same time every morning. By making you go to bed every evening at the same time, and waking you up every morning at the same time, your body will eventually develop a routine, and you will find it easier to sleep.

A lot of people, myself included, go to bed at different times every night (blame the Internet). This makes it difficult for the body to have an accurate “clock”.

Time To Wake Up!

When the time to wake up arrives, you get your chosen tune playing along with a “snooze” button and a “stop” button.

For obvious reasons, don’t hit “snooze“. It beats me why they added it, when they want you to get up at the same time every day!

ios bedtime

They even make the snooze button bigger – and orange! Is it some kind of a test?

Conclusion

For some strange reason, Apple does not really promote iOS Bedtime. Which is a shame because it is one of the best features on the iPhone. But since it lacks the same marketing as say Live Photos, probably not many people realise it is there.

Give it a try and see if your sleep improves as a result. It won’t be an overnight thing, and it certainly won’t stop you binge-watching Netflix until the early hours. But the “gamification” of the app might motivate you to keep to regular sleeping hours. What do you have to lose?

Mark O'Neill
Freelance journalist and editor living in Würzburg, Germany. Former Managing Editor of makeuseof.com (2007-2013), and contributing writer for other sites such as PC World and Quiet Light Brokerage. Specializing in online security and privacy issues.