How Can Your Phone Track Your Sleep Without a Wearable?

Discover the power of sonar technology.

Person sleeping on their bed without a tracker for phone-free sleep tracking
Adene Sanchez Yuri Arcurs YAPR /Getty Images

If you’re interested in getting better sleep, you may be looking into using a sleep tracker. And emerging technology means there are more options than ever for getting a glimpse into how you sleep.

“A decade ago, sleep tracking was generally only possible in the sleep laboratory or as part of a research study,” notes Elie Gottlieb, Ph.D., applied sleep scientist at SleepScore Labs. “Today, advancements in sleep-tracking technologies provide users an aperture through which they can accurately view their nightly sleep patterns in the comfort of their own home.”

When it comes to sleep trackers, wellness-minded consumers have many choices. Some trackers are below-mattress sensors, which gauge movement to determine when you’re asleep. Another common sleep tracker type is a wearable such as those made by Fitbit, Whoop, Apple, and Oura. These use direct skin contact to discern your heart rate and motion, getting a sense of your sleep and wake patterns accordingly. In the world of sleep-tracking apps, most use accelerometer technology or your smartphone’s microphone alone to measure your sleep — making the app in a class all its own.

Powered by SleepScore™ and backed by millions of hours of sleep data, the app uses sonar to assess both movement and breathing rate – a combination that provides an accurate picture of your sleep. And even better, it tracks everything through an app on your phone. What does that mean for you? There’s no need to invest in a separate device to achieve a better night’s rest, and it’s thanks to the power of sonar.

Using sonar to track your sleep without a wearable

You’ve probably heard about sonar in connection to the echolocation abilities of animals like bats, dolphins, and whales. They make a noise and send sound waves into the air or water around them. Those sound waves reflect off nearby objects, letting the animals know where they’re going or where their food is. The app utilizes these same principles.

Powered by SleepScore, the app sends silent signals into your sleep environment. When these sound waves reflect into your microphone, our advanced algorithm interprets their shape and movement — measuring your breathing rate, tracking your body movement, and turning those insights into an accurate record of your nightly sleep patterns. Thanks to its patented sonar technology, the app can track your sleep with just the tools built into your smartphone: its speakers and microphone, with no wearable required.

Screenshot of data visualization of SleepScore

Can sonar accurately track sleep?

Sonar is a proven technology for gauging distance and spaces. But how does it translate into accurately measuring your sleep stages throughout the night?

As the app sends sonar signals to sense your body movement, it also captures your breathing rate. The app’s advanced algorithms then interpret both signals to track your nightly journey through the sleep stages. These best-in-class algorithms have been validated against Polysomnography (PSG), the clinically accepted standards of measuring sleep, with results published in more than 10 scientific peer-reviewed papers. In all, the app’s technology leverages more than 12 years of development and 80 million hours of sleep data to provide the most accurate wearable-free sleep tracking outside of a sleep lab.

"The app's non-contact sleep measurement technology ranks among the best-in-class for both sleep and wake detection accuracy,” Gottlieb said. "Its performance can potentially exceed actigraphy, which is commonly used in sleep clinics and clinical trials worldwide to measure sleep parameters.”

Through the combination of sonar technology and advanced algorithms, the app can determine the amount of time you spend awake and asleep, and break down that time into the key sleep stages: light sleep, REM sleep, and deep sleep. You’ll receive a SleepScore each morning that acts as a high-level snapshot of your nightly rest. Then, you can dive deep into your sleep details to discover how your SleepScore was calculated based on your age and gender. After tapping through your sleep details to learn more about each stage, you can discover even more by scrolling through the app’s Sleep Guide.

Is sonar safe?

Absolutely! Sonar, which is short for sound navigation and ranging, uses sound waves to map spaces and objects nearby. We encounter sound waves all the time in our everyday life, simply by communicating with others; noises are audible sound waves. The sound frequencies used in the app fall above the level of normal adult human hearing, which means they’re not detectable to the average human ear and are well within the range considered safe by medical professionals. And because the frequencies used in the app are transferred via the air rather than applied directly to the body, the energy levels emitted are minimal and fall within the acceptable range highlighted in numerous publications and guidelines.

“Since the average emitted sonar frequencies are well within the most stringent guidelines on sound exposure, and the frequencies are above the audible range for most adults, the sonar technology used by technology is not harmful and poses no risk to your health,” according to Gottlieb.

Can pets hear the sonar signal?

In most cases, pets shouldn’t have any issues when you’re using the app. However, it is a possibility. The app uses advanced sonar at sound frequencies that are known to be above the level of adult human hearing. But due to our pets’ more sensitive hearing, some animals could hear the sonar frequencies. Our extensive testing has shown that this is not an ongoing concern for pets. Often, they may hear the signal at the start of the session and then proceed to settle in like any other night.

Can sonar affect other technologies, like pacemakers or CPAP machines?

Rest assured, anyone using a pacemaker or a CPAP machine can use the app without issue. The sonar technology will not interfere with these devices, and vice versa.

Sonar will not affect technologies like your pacemaker or CPAP machine. However, if you’re a regular user of a fan or speaker at night, you may need to make a few minor adjustments to the settings and location of these electronics. Depending on the location of these electronics, the volume level, and the type of sound being emitted, it is possible that they could interfere with the app’s tracking accuracy. For the best tracking results, position these devices at least six feet from your phone.

Can I use this technology with a bed partner next to me?

The app’s sonar technology is accurate enough to measure only your sleep settings, even if you sleep with a bed partner. The sonar signal is designed to reach a length of about 3 feet before returning to your phone’s microphone, so as long as your phone is closer to you and within range, you will be fine. It can even track your sleep through blankets on chilly nights!

Currently, the app can only record one person’s sleep at a time. This is to ensure that there’s no interference between two competing sonar signals.

Rest easy with

We know that when it comes to health and wellness technology, options abound. With the app, you can rest easy knowing that your wearable-free sleep tracker is powered by the experts at SleepScore Labs, a sleep science leader whose patented technology is proven to track your sleep safely and accurately. The research and data behind the app’s sleep improvement features are many years — and millions of hours of sleep — in the making. We’re also using real data to continually roll out better features, advice, and solutions to our users, because the world of sleep innovation is only just getting started.

Ready to try the app for yourself? Download the app from the App Store or Google Play to get a free seven-day trial of Premium. Your first SleepScore awaits.