What Is the Best Sleep Tracker Without a Watch?

The RISE app is a sleep tracker without a watch that tracks metrics that matter, like sleep debt and circadian alignment, for better sleep and energy.
Published
2024-04-01
14 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists.
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Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.

Best Sleep App Tracker Without a Watch: The RISE App 

  • You don’t need a watch or wearable to track your sleep with the RISE app. The app can track your sleep through sensors on your phone, which can be more accurate for sleep tracking in certain circumstances.
  • RISE doesn’t just track your sleep. It focuses on the key metrics of sleep debt and circadian alignment, working out how much sleep you need and giving you advice based on your own biology to get better sleep and more energy.
  • RISE works great on its own but you can also pair RISE with wearable devices like Apple Watch, Garmin, Oura Ring, or Fitbit to track more health metrics, like workouts.

Finding the best sleep-tracking app can feel like a daunting task. Even if you’ve excluded watches from your search, you’re still faced with several options to choose from. 

To help you decide, look for apps that track and help you improve your sleep debt and circadian alignment (how in sync you are with your circadian rhythm, or body clock). Experts agree these are the two biggest factors affecting your energy levels.

That’s where RISE comes in. RISE tracks these two metrics and gives you personalized guidance on how to improve them, helping you get better sleep, more energy, and more productive days. 

Below, we’ll cover what to look for in a sleep-tracking app and how you can use RISE to get more out of each day (and night).

Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Best Sleep App Tracker Without a Watch 

You’ve decided you don’t want a watch, but there’s much more to consider when looking for the best sleep tracker for you. 

Here are the key things to ask yourself when choosing a sleep-tracking app: 

  • Does the app track the right metrics? 

Sleep data is interesting, but it’s only useful if it’s tracking metrics that make a difference. There's no clear evidence heart rate, sleep recordings, and sleep quality directly explain how you feel each day. Sleep debt and how in sync you are with your circadian rhythm, on the other hand, are the two biggest factors affecting how you feel and function. 

Beyond focusing on the right metrics, you’ll want an app that tracks these accurately, working out how much sleep you personally need and not relying on generic sleep guidelines or self-selected sleep goals.  

  • Does the app help you improve those metrics? 

Knowing your sleep debt or the timing of your circadian rhythm is just the first step. You also want a sleep tracker that helps you improve those metrics, so you feel more energy and focus from using the tracker. This is probably why you want to track your sleep to begin with. As part of this, you’ll want clear and easy-to-understand sleep tracking plus helpful advice you can apply to your daily life to see improvements in your sleep and energy levels.

  • Does the app come with any other useful features? 

Alongside tracking sleep, you may want an app that has other features to improve your sleep and energy. That might be white noise to help you drift off, a smart alarm clock to gently wake up at the right time, or the ability to sync apps with other people to hold each other accountable. 

  • How much does the app cost? 

As well as the price, consider if you’d prefer to pay once yearly and then not worry about it or have a recurring monthly charge. And don’t forget to compare whether there’s any cost for hardware (such as for a ring or a strap) alongside an app subscription.

  • Does the app have good reviews? 

Check out customer reviews and look for real-life stories of improved sleep, energy, productivity, and other key factors you want to improve. Look out for ratings, awards, and other recognitions to help you determine if a company and its app are reputable.

  • Does the app sync with wearable devices? 

Check to see if a sleep tracking app can sync with wearable devices you either already own or you may want to use in the future. 

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Can You Track Sleep Without a Watch? 

Yes, you can track sleep without a watch by using a sleep-tracking app like RISE. 

You don’t need an Apple Watch — or any other fitness watch like Fitbit or Garmin — to track sleep. You can track sleep with non-watch wearables like the Oura Ring or Whoop, bed or room sensors like the EightSleep mattress cover or the Google Nest Hub, or sleep-tracking apps like Sleep Cycle, AutoSleep, and (our favorite) the RISE app. That means you can track sleep with just an iPhone or Android phone.

We dive into the best non-wearable sleep trackers here, including why sleep apps can provide great sleep analysis. 

How Does RISE Track Your Sleep Without a Watch? 

RISE tracks your sleep by using one of three methods: 

  • Tappigraphy (phone use): Tracking when you touch your phone last thing before bed and first thing in the morning. Research shows this may be more accurate than tracking movement as many of us lay still while scrolling on our phones in bed. Sleep like normal with your phone on your bedside table.  
  • Mattress-based actigraphy (mattress motion tracking): Tracking body movement with the accelerometer in your phone. Sleep with your phone on your mattress.  
  • Data from wearables (if you want to wear one): Pulling data from Oura ring, Apple Watch, Garmin or Fitbit. Sleep with your phone outside of the bedroom if you prefer. RISE can also use data from devices like an Eight Sleep mattress by pulling data from Apple HealthKit.

You don’t have to manually start RISE’s sleep tracking. If you forget to start mattress tracking (or forget to wear your Apple Watch, for example), RISE will automatically use phone use tracking, so you never miss a night of RISE’s sleep data and insights.

Looking for the best Oura Ring alternatives for sleep? We cover that here.  

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Which Metrics Does the RISE App Track? 

RISE tracks your sleep debt and circadian rhythm. Experts agree these are the two biggest factors impacting how you feel each day. 

Here’s why you should track sleep debt and circadian rhythm, and why you don’t need to worry about other common metrics, like sleep quality and time spent in sleep stages. 

Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is how much sleep you owe your body. The lower your sleep debt, the better your energy, productivity, digestion, mood, skin, and overall health will be. That’s probably why you want to track and improve your sleep to begin with.

RISE compares how much sleep you get to how much sleep you need. But instead of comparing your sleep to generic sleep guidelines (which can be inaccurate and misleading, and is the norm for other sleep tracking apps), RISE works out how much sleep you personally need — this is known as your sleep need. 

This number is different for everyone. For example, when we looked at the sleep needs of 1.95 million RISE users aged 24 and up, we found it ranged from five hours to 11 hours 30 minutes. 

The RISE app can tell you how much sleep you need
The hours of sleep RISE users need.

RISE uses a year’s worth of phone use data and sleep science algorithms to calculate your sleep need. It then tracks your sleep duration over the course of 14 nights to tell you how much sleep debt you have each day. 

There’s a lot of science in the background, but you’ll get one easy-to-understand sleep debt number to focus on lowering.

You can see your sleep debt in the RISE app, on a widget on your iPhone home screen, on your iPad, or on your Apple Watch, if you use one. 

We’ve covered more on sleep debt tracking apps here, including why RISE is the most accurate.

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app tracks your daily sleep debt.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can view their sleep need here and view their sleep debt here.

Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock. It helps to control your sleep-wake cycle and dictates when you’ll have more or less energy throughout the day (think a productive morning followed by the afternoon slump).

When you’re in sync with your circadian rhythm, you’ll have an easier time falling and staying asleep, higher daytime energy, a better mood, and better mental and physical health. The best way to stay in sync is by keeping a regular sleep schedule.  

RISE predicts the timing of your circadian rhythm each day to help you sync up with it. 

The app uses your inferred light exposure, recent sleep times, and algorithms built on the SAFTE model, developed by the US Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense, to do this. 

Again, a lot of science behind the scenes, but in the app, you’ll get one clear visualization of your circadian rhythm and when your energy levels will rise and fall across the day.

You can boost productivity and maximize performance by scheduling challenging tasks during your energy peaks and easier tasks, or taking a break, during energy dips.

Some other sleep tracking apps suggest their readiness or recovery score can help you adjust your activities to match your energy levels. But these scores give you an opaque and fixed understanding of your daily energy that you can’t use to optimize your day.

Low sleep debt and being in sync with your circadian rhythm boost your daily energy and health independently, but they’re even more impactful together.

We cover more about how RISE predicts your circadian rhythm here.

RISE app screenshot showing energy peak times
RISE predicts your circadian rhythm each day.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen here

Sleep Stages 

RISE doesn’t track your sleep cycles or the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, light sleep, or REM sleep.

You can’t really control how long you spend in each sleep stage, so we argue you shouldn’t worry about them! Worrying won’t do your sleep any favors after all. 

Plus, every sleep stage is important and we all need a different amount of each stage, and that can change from night to night. There isn’t a connection between the amount of time you spend in each stage of sleep and how you feel while you’re awake, either. These aren’t things many sleep trackers take into account.  

Despite advances in tech over the years, research has found sleep trackers — both wearables and non-wearables — still aren’t always accurate at tracking stages of sleep. 

And more research has found wearables can still misclassify wakefulness during sleep time (among other issues!). Even with polysomnography (a sleep study), experts agree on test results only about 80% of the time. 

Sleep Quality

RISE also doesn’t give you a sleep quality score, but you can rate this one yourself in the app.

There’s no set definition for sleep quality. Sleep tracker apps usually have their own scoring system giving you a confusing and mysterious sleep score that’s not comprised of the metrics you need to improve to improve your sleep and energy. And because of this mystery, it’s unclear what exactly you need to do to improve your score.

A generic sleep quality score won’t make that much of a difference to how you feel each day, but research shows your subjective feelings about your sleep can — that’s why you can rate sleep quality yourself in the RISE app.  

Sleep stages and sleep quality also can’t really help diagnose sleep disorders like sleep apnea, either. Sleep debt creeping up, on the other hand, can be a sign of a sleep problem.

Learn more about sleep tracking here, including why tracking sleep quality and sleep stages isn’t that useful. 

How Does RISE Improve Your Sleep and Energy Levels? 

We’re guessing you’re not just tracking your sleep for fun. You probably want to have more energy, be more productive, or improve your mental and physical health. Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm are the best ways to do this. 

RISE moves beyond tracking to help you improve outcomes you care about. No confusing or dead-end sleep reports, graphs, or generic sleep goals here. RISE gives you easy-to-follow personalized advice to help you improve those two key metrics of sleep debt and circadian alignment. 

When you’ve got lower sleep debt and you’re more in sync with your circadian rhythm you’ll have: 

RISE helps you lower your sleep debt and get in sync with your circadian rhythm with: 

  • Personalized sleep hygiene guidance: You’ll get daily notifications when it’s time to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits (the habits that impact your sleep) at the right time for your circadian rhythm — this part is key, many apps prompt you at generic times, which isn’t as effective at improving your sleep. Good sleep hygiene is scientifically proven to help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often in the night — so you feel less exhausted each day. You’ll get personalized reminders for when to have your final coffee, when to avoid eating before bed, and when to get and avoid bright light. 
  • A prediction of your Melatonin Window (ideal bedtime): This is what we call the roughly one-hour window when your body’s rate of melatonin production (the sleep hormone) is at its highest. Going to sleep during this window can help you fall and stay asleep and stay in sync with your circadian rhythm. 
  • A gentle smart alarm: You’ll learn whether your chosen wake time will add to your sleep debt as you’re setting your alarm. If possible, wake up a little later to keep sleep debt low. You can also choose a gentle alarm sound or vibrations to avoid jolting yourself awake. Waking up with low sleep debt is the best way to feel refreshed in the morning — not being woken up when in a specific stage of sleep (which can’t be accurately tracked anyway).
  • Guidance on shifting your sleep schedule: If you need more sleep, RISE can give you a recommended bedtime that slowly shifts earlier. You can also shift your sleep patterns if you want to become a morning person or get over jet lag faster. This will help you get in sync with your circadian rhythm and match your sleep times to your lifestyle, while still getting enough sleep.
  • A daily prediction of your circadian rhythm and energy levels: You can see when morning grogginess will fade and the best time to focus on challenging tasks, take a break, wind down for bed, and sleep and wake up. This accurate and detailed view of your natural energy patterns allows you to align your daily activities with them to make the most of the energy you have. 
  • Science-backed relaxation exercises: RISE guides you through breathing and relaxation exercises to help you unwind and drift off. There are also sleep sounds and white noise. The more time you spend in bed asleep, the lower your sleep debt will be.
RISE app user stats
Regular RISE users get more sleep and have less sleep debt.

Other Features of RISE

Every feature of RISE helps you lower your sleep debt and stay in sync with your circadian rhythm to help you get you better days.

These include: 

  • 20+ personalized sleep hygiene recommendations, acting as a personal sleep coach, to help you get a good night’s sleep night after night. 
  • Guided breathing and relaxation exercises and sleep sounds and white noise, to help you wind down and fall asleep faster and wake up less often to reduce sleep debt.
  • Calendar integration, so you can see your upcoming peaks and dips in energy and schedule your day to match, boosting productivity.
  • A gentle smart alarm to nudge you to get enough sleep and not add to sleep debt.
  • Partner Connect, which means you can sync apps with someone else to help keep each other accountable.
  • Telling you the best time to take a nap, so you can chip away at sleep debt. 
  • Syncing with other devices if you have them, so you can customize your health tech stack.

RISE Cost 

RISE costs $69.99 a year, which works out at $5.83 a month. You don’t need to buy any additional rings or devices and you’ll have access to all of RISE’s sleep tracking, insights, and personalized guidance with one payment.

You can also try RISE for free for seven days

During this free trial, you’ll find out your sleep need, how much sleep debt you have, and see a prediction of your circadian rhythm, which will show you your ideal bedtime and energy predictions every day. 

You can see how personalized good sleep habits, relaxing sleep content, and suggested sleep and wake times can improve your sleep and energy. 

You’ll also get email reminders before your free trial is up (including a reminder your trial is about to end) with sleep tips and useful information on how to maximize your sleep and energy through the app.

Is the RISE sleep app worth it? We make the case here.

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RISE Reviews 

RISE has thousands of 5-star reviews, so you don’t have to take our word for how useful the app is:

  • “This app has changed my life. I never realized how much sleep I actually needed, and how sleep loss accumulates to detrimental effect. Since I got my debt under control, I have more energy, am no longer crashing or napping, drinking less coffee, and my days feel more productive. If you think this app is expensive, it’s really not, for what you get in return.” Read the review
  • “This has been a godsend. The simplicity is so helpful, I know what I need to do and why I’m feeling tired on a given day. Love it.” Read the review
  • “The only app that really helps with sleep disorders, because it uses real science-backed info to give you detailed instructions on what to do, how to do it, and why in simple words with an amazing design and comfortability at its peak!” Read the review

As well as thousands of 5-star reviews, RISE has industry-wide recognition, too. Sleep Foundation and Sleep Doctor have named RISE one of their best sleep apps of 2024. Plus, Apple has nominated the app for a design award and named it an Editor’s Choice.

Try the Best Non-Watch Sleep-Tracking App Out There: RISE 

The RISE app works out how much sleep you uniquely need and tracks the two metrics researchers agree make the biggest difference to how you feel: sleep debt and circadian alignment.

As well as tracking these key metrics, RISE gives you daily guidance, based on your own biology, to help you lower your sleep debt and sync up with your circadian rhythm, so you can feel and perform your best each day.  

If you want to avoid watches and all wearables, RISE can track sleep through your phone alone. But you can also pair it directly with Apple Watch, Fitbit, Oura Ring, or Garmin to track more health metrics, like workouts, and indirectly with devices like an Eight Sleep mattress. 

The most important thing? You’ll feel the difference fast — 80% of RISE users feel more energy within five days.

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RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential

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Try 7 days free

The power behind your next best day

RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential

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