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iOS 14, watchOS 7 health features include greater focus on sleep

Sleep tracking on watchOS 7

Apple has made quite a few changes to iOS 14 and watchOS 7 to help users take care of their bodies, with Health changes including a new focus on sleep management as well as the usual slate of fitness tracking enhancements.

A key element of Apple's Health-related updates in iOS 14 and watchOS 7 relates to sleep. While there exists some sleep tracking in both watchOS and iOS via Bedtime and third-party apps and products, Apple has purposefully moved to make it easier for users to get a good night's sleep by taking advantage of their iPhone and Apple Watch.

The main change is generating a routine to encourage users to sleep. A Sleep Mode that can be triggered manually or by an Apple Watch turns on Do Not Disturb to eliminate calls and notifications, with the mode also dimming displays and limiting onscreen text to the date, time, and alarm details.

Sleep Mode will also trigger a Wind Down experience to help get users to rest. A variety of relaxing actions can be selected, such as listening to soundscapes or opening a meditation app, which can be set to go off at a time before the user is scheduled to sleep.

The Health app will gain options for a user to set a goal for the amount of sleep they want each night, and to create a daily schedule for going to bed and waking up. It will also offer a sleep analysis chart to show how much sleep the user actually achieves over the course of a week.

The Apple Watch's Sleep Tracking will use its accelerometer to detect subtle movements associated with breathing to determine if the user is actually sleeping, or if they have woken up during the night. Upon waking, Watch displays a wakeup screen that includes information about battery charge, prompting users to juice up if needed.

Updating to iOS 14 will also add support for several new data types for health records, mobility, symptoms, and ECG. The new data types will be viewable within the Health app.

Headphone users will also benefit from hearing health changes, including a notification and an automatic volume reduction to a safe level once they reach the World Health Organization's recommended safe weekly listening dose.

On the Apple Watch, four new workouts covering Functional Strength Training, Core Training, Dance, and Cooldown are added for more flexibility. The Fitness app will be updated to show Activity, Workouts, Awards, and Activity Trends data on a single page, while a similar update will be made to the Activity competitions and Activity Sharing page.

To help improve hygiene, Apple is including a hand-washing timer in watchOS 7. Following guidelines to wash hands for 20 seconds, the feature will automatically detect hand washing using motion sensing and the onboard microphone, starting the timer and informing with noises and haptic feedback when the user has washed for the full 20 seconds.

The Apple Watch will even be able to remind users to wash their hands when they return home.