It has become uncool to sleep. People pride themselves on how little they can survive on and tease others for early bedtimes or late risings. But the fact of the matter is: sleep is crucially important. And as a species, we aren’t getting enough of it.
Fortunately, the technology that may be the cause of our sleep woes also holds many solutions. Using the settings we’ve laid out below you can continue to make the most of your iPhone, while using it to get the best sleep of your life!
Why we should care about sleep
It’s estimated that an equivalent of 1.23 million workdays are lost every year as a result of sleep loss. That’s in the US alone. Even scarier than that is an emerging trend that chronic sleep deprivation—anything less than six hours a night—is related to a higher risk of mortality.
- Fight infection and prevent disease
- Process emotional trauma
- Digest food and burn fat (instead of muscle)
- Store memories and learn new facts
- Stave off dementia or cardiovascular disease
- Make logical and rational decisions
- Even effectively interpret facial expressions
That isn’t all. Dr. Walker suggests that as a result of a sleep loss epidemic, millions of people around the world are operating on less than optimal sleep without even realizing. As it turns out, we’re rubbish at recognizing when we’ve slept poorly or when our performance is affected by lack of sleep.
Okay, that’s all the bad stuff. But there are good things to talk about too. If you’re sleeping well you’ll see an increase in energy, motivation, and productivity. You’ll be stronger and healthier with improved memory. And some studies suggest you’ll even look younger and more attractive!
So, where to start? Well, next we’re going to outline a few of the common causes for bad sleep.
Then we’ll explain how you can use your trusty iPhone to improve your sleep!
The causes of bad sleep
Not getting enough
The biggest problem is simply not getting enough. The potential reasons for this are varied but it’s no secret that sleep has an image problem. People are frowned on for sleeping in and teased for getting an early night.
The recommendation is that anyone over 18 gets between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Younger than that and you need even more. And we’re talking about time asleep here, not just time in bed. Studies show that anything less than six hours starts to take a serious toll on your mind and body.
Not sleeping regularly
So you need enough sleep, but you also need it regularly. Too many people short themselves on sleep in the week and try to make it up on the weekend. We say “try” to make it up because it doesn’t really work out for these reasons:
- You still suffer from sleep deprivation Monday to Friday.
- The extra hours on the weekend don’t add up to what was lost in the week.
- You can’t train your body to sleep and wake up at the same times.
Overuse of technology
We’re sorry to say it, but using technology late at night might be the cause of poor quality sleep. There are a couple of reasons why this might be the case.
First, screens emit blue light to create a natural range of colors. That’s great for videos but the blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime and can keep you from feeling sleepy at night.
Second, technology is excellent at stimulating us. Whether messaging friends, browsing Instagram, playing games, or watching videos. The result is that we’re more wound up when we get into bed than we should be.
Another problem is people using their phones while in bed—a big no-no if you want to sleep well!
Many people aren’t as fortunate as others in terms of how much sleep they’re physically able to get. You may have young children waking you up, irregular nighttime shifts, or a second job that leaves you less than seven hours to sleep.
We understand there are plenty of times when you can’t do much to improve your sleep. But it’s good for you to understand the effect poor sleep may be having on you nonetheless.
And if anything, the tips below for improving what little sleep you can get are even more important if your lifestyle limits you.
How to use your iPhone to improve your sleep
Set a bedtime
As we’ve established, regular sleep is very important. And that starts with setting a bedtime for yourself. Fortunately, there’s a great feature on your iPhone to help work out exactly when that bedtime should be.
And just to be clear: it’s best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends. That way you’ll soon find that you’re getting to sleep and waking up easier than ever before.
How to set a Bedtime on iPhone on iOS 14:
- Open the Health app and go to the Browse tab.
- Select Sleep and scroll down to the Your Schedule section.
- Tap Sleep Schedule and turn it on.
- Tap Edit beneath the Full Schedule section to create a sleep schedule.
- Drag the ends of the circle to get 7–9 hours of sleep, then drag the entire circle so you wake up at the right time.
- Scroll down and enable the Wake Up Alarm.
How to set a Bedtime on iPhone on iOS 13 or earlier:
- Open the Clock app and go to the Browse tab.
- In the top right, tap the toggle to turn Bedtime on.
- Drag the ends of the circle to get 7–9 hours of sleep.
- Drag the entire circle so you wake up at the right time.
Et voila: now you know your bedtime. Make a note of it because you’ll need it in the next few steps.
Remember, that’s the time you want to get to sleep—not just the time to get into bed. Let’s go a step further and set a reminder to get to bed on time.
How to customize the Bedtime options in iOS 14:
- From the Full Schedule page in the Sleep section of the Health app, scroll down to the Additional Details.
- Choose your Sleep Goal.
- Set the Wind Down period to between 15 minutes and an hour. At this time, a notification reminds you to start winding down for the night and your iPhone Lock screen changes.
- Use the Wind Down Shortcuts to add any shortcuts you still want easy access to from the Lock screen during your Wind Down period.
- Open the Options and enable the Turn On Automatically option for Sleep Mode.
How to customize the Bedtime options in iOS 13 or earlier:
- From the Bedtime tab go to Options in the top left.
- Tap every day of the week to turn it on, they should be orange.
- Open the Bedtime reminder and choose when you want it to alert you.
- Turn on Do Not Disturb During Bedtime so your slumber goes uninterrupted.
- Finally, choose a Wake-Up Sound that you like from the list.
Minimize blue light
We already mentioned how that pesky blue light can keep you from feeling tired at night. For this step, we’re going to utilize the iPhone’s Night Shift feature with the aim of improving your sleep.
Night Shift minimizes the blue light from your iPhone screen. It takes getting used to the resulting yellow tinge, but we’ll schedule it to come on just an hour before bed.
How to schedule Night Shift:
- Go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift.
- Turn on the Scheduled toggle and tap the times.
- Select Custom Schedule.
- Turn On At: one hour before your bedtime.
- Turn Off At: the time you wake up.
With Night Shift in place, you should find that late-night iPhone use doesn’t impact your sleep as much. Now let’s go a step further to help you avoid using your phone too late at night at all.
Schedule some downtime
This feels like the most controversial suggestion but one of the best things you can do to sleep better is trying to get away from technology altogether in the hour before bed. Try to use that period of time for something relaxing and screen-free.
Here are a couple of suggestions for what that could mean:
- Read a book
- Listen to music
- Prepare tomorrow’s lunch
- Doodle in a sketchbook
It’s really different for everyone. It can be tricky finding the right thing for you, but once you do it’ll pay off.
In the meantime, Downtime on your iPhone can serve as a useful reminder to get off your iPhone. Downtime effectively blocks all but the essential apps on your phone for a set period of time.
Don’t worry, you can easily bypass Downtime if you want to. Just think of it as a gentle prod in the right direction.
How to schedule Downtime on iPhone:
- Go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime.
- Enter your Screen Time passcode if you have one.
- Tap to turn on Downtime.
- Edit the times to come on an hour before bed until you wake in the morning.
Bonus tip: If Downtime alone isn’t strong enough to keep you off your phone, set a Screen Time passcode as an additional barrier to overcome. Personally, my Screen Time passcode spells out “WEAK” which is what I am if I’m using it. Or the extreme method is to get a trusted friend to set the passcode without telling you what it is. Just don’t let them forget it!
Turn off notifications
The last thing you want after all that hard work is to be relaxing with a book when your phone goes off beside you! We’ve already turned on Do Not Disturb During Bedtime so you shouldn’t be woken through the night—except for emergencies. Now let’s turn on Do Not Disturb mode for the relaxing phone-free hour before bed.
Do Not Disturb will mute any incoming notifications. You’ll see them in the Notification Center when you look, but the iPhone won’t buzz and ding as they’re arriving.
Don’t worry, you can tweak the settings to still hear from favorite contacts or still receive a phone call if they ring twice within three minutes.
How to schedule and tweak Do Not Disturb mode:
- Go to Settings > Do Not Disturb.
- Turn on Scheduled and set the times to an hour before bedtime.
- Scroll down to choose who you want to Allow Calls From.
- Turn on Repeated Calls if you want.
Download a sleep tracker
Although iPhone’s Bedtime or Sleep feature will measure how much you sleep, an assortment of third-party apps can give you far greater insight into your slumber. Consider visiting the App Store to download one of the sleep trackers below. They give you access to great information that you can use to further measure and improve your sleep.
This sleep tracking app uses sound to measure your sleep phases and then wakes you during your lightest period of sleep. By paying for premium access you can also track long-term trends like how you’re affected by caffeine and alcohol, connect a heart rate monitor, or backup your sleep data.
An attractive app you can use alongside your Apple Watch to measure heart rate, sleep cycles, snoring, and more. Without an Apple Watch, you can still use your phone to measure most of these things and see it all come together in a colorful sleep report.
Place your iPhone in the bed to act as a sensor for the Sleep Better app. Doing so measures your movement to work out how well you slept. Add to this your what you did the previous day and this clever app will pick out trends to help you sleep better.
This is the companion app for the Beddit Sleep monitor that goes in your bed to measure your sleep. Using the sensor, Beddit accurately measures heart rate, respiration, snoring, and bedroom temperature allowing you to accurately analyze your sleep.
We hope these tips help you find better sleep at night. If you’ve got any suggestions or questions please feel free to write in the comments below. We’ll be sure to get back to you. In the meantime, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Seriously… They itch.
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.