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RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle: Which Sleep Tracking App to Choose

The RISE app and Sleep Cycle both track your sleep, but RISE focuses on sleep debt and your circadian rhythm and Sleep Cycle focuses on sleep patterns.
Published
2024-01-02
11 MINS
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
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.

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle: What’s the Best Sleep Tracker?  

  • RISE and Sleep Cycle are both apps that track and give you insights into your sleep.
  • The RISE app focuses on sleep debt and your circadian rhythm. It gives you daily guidance based on your own biology to improve these metrics for better sleep, energy, productivity, and health. It also works out how much sleep you personally need.
  • Sleep Cycle tracks metrics like sleep duration, quality, cycles, and regularity, and it records sounds at night, like snoring or talking. 
  • Both apps have features like smart alarms and libraries of content to help you relax and drift off. 
  • You can use RISE and Sleep Cycle together to get the sleep debt and circadian rhythm insights and guidance from RISE and Sleep Cycle’s sound recordings and larger content library.

RISE and Sleep Cycle are both apps that track your sleep, but they focus on different metrics and there are a few features that differentiate them. 

Below, we’ll explain what each app does to help you decide between the two.

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Sleep Debt Tracking

The RISE app tracks your sleep debt. Sleep Cycle doesn’t track sleep debt. 

Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. It’s compared against your sleep need, which is the unique and genetically determined amount of sleep you need

Sleep researchers agree sleep debt is one of the biggest factors affecting how you feel and function each day. The lower your sleep debt, the better your energy, productivity, wellness, digestion, skin, mental health, safety behind the wheel, and athletic performance will be — and the list could go on.

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Does RISE Track Sleep?

Yes, RISE tracks sleep. RISE doesn’t just tell you your sleep duration, though. It calculates your unique sleep need and how much sleep debt you have, and gives you advice based on your body clock to help you get a better night of sleep.

RISE can track your sleep by: 

  • Tracking phone use: Sleep with your phone on your nightstand and RISE can calculate your sleep times based on when you touch your phone first and last thing. 
  • Tracking sound: Sleep with your phone on your nightstand and RISE can use sound, tracked via your phone’s microphone, to determine when you’re awake and asleep.
  • Tracking movement: Sleep with your phone on your mattress and RISE can use movement to determine when you’re awake and asleep.
  • Using data from wearable devices: RISE can pull data from the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, Garmin, or Fitbit. You can leave your phone in another room if you prefer.

Sleep data is interesting, but to improve your sleep, you need to first find out how much of it you need. It’s not simply eight hours for everyone. 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.
RISE users' sleep needs.

RISE calculates your individual sleep need based on sleep science algorithms and a year’s worth of your phone use behavior. 

It then works out your sleep debt based on how much sleep you’ve gotten over the last 14 nights. You can also add in any naps you take. We place more weight — 15% to be exact — on last night’s sleep, and the remaining 85% of sleep debt comes from the previous 13 nights. 

You can check your sleep debt — and other RISE data — from the app, your iPad, Apple Watch, or a widget on your iPhone home screen.

RISE works out your sleep debt number and helps you lower it. Eliminating sleep debt entirely may not be achievable for many of us, but reducing it as much as possible can help you feel and perform your best.

You can learn more about how to lower sleep debt here.

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
RISE can calculate your sleep debt.

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

Does Sleep Cycle Track Sleep?  

Yes, Sleep Cycle tracks sleep. It uses your phone’s accelerometer to track movements or the microphone (which it says is more accurate) to track sounds.

You can sleep with your phone on your nightstand or mattress. You can also use the Sleep Cycle app on your iPad or the accelerometer on your Apple Watch.

Sleep Cycle tracks your time in bed, time asleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, sleep regularity, sleep quality, and sleep stages (more on those last two soon). 

You can also see how your sleep times compare to other countries and listen to any sound recordings taken during the night. These are useful for ending the “I don’t snore” argument and checking for signs of sleep apnea. If you notice any gasping noises, loud snoring, or changes in your snoring, reach out to a healthcare provider.

Sleep Cycle doesn’t work out how much sleep you need or recommend a generic sleep duration to aim for. You set your own sleep duration goal in the app.

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RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Sleep Quality Tracking 

The RISE app doesn’t track your sleep quality. Sleep Cycle does track sleep quality. 

Sleep Cycle gives you a sleep quality score based on how long you spent in bed, deep sleep, and awake, and how much you moved during the night. 

There are a few problems with sleep quality as a metric, however. For one, there’s no agreed-upon definition for sleep quality, both among sleep scientists and the everyday sleeper. And sleep trackers use different metrics or their own sleep scores. When you don’t know what goes into a sleep quality score, it’s hard to know how you can improve it or whether it’s even tracking metrics that make a difference to how you feel. 

Sleep debt, unlike sleep quality, is proven to make a difference to how you feel each day.

In RISE, you can self-rate your sleep quality. Research — including this 2023 study — shows how satisfied you feel with your sleep can make a difference to how you feel each day. So self-rating your sleep quality may help you understand your energy levels more than what a sleep tracker tells you about your sleep quality. 

RISE waits 90 minutes after you wake up before asking you to rate your sleep quality. This gives you enough time to shake off sleep inertia, or grogginess.

Sleep Cycle asks you to rate your mood as soon as you wake up, so grogginess might be clouding how you really feel. 

Learn more about sleep tracking and sleep quality here. 

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Sleep Stages Tracking

The RISE app doesn’t track sleep stages. Sleep Cycle does track sleep stages. 

Sleep Cycle estimates your sleep stages based on sounds and movements. Some sound and movement indicate light sleep, whereas limited or no sound and movement indicate deep sleep. Sleep Cycle doesn’t track your REM sleep.

Seeing how long you spent in different sleep stages is interesting, but it’s not that useful. You can’t control how long you spend in each sleep stage, so you don’t need to worry about it. And as we all need a different amount of sleep, we all need to spend a different amount of time in each sleep stage, and this can change from night to night. So seeing your numbers without knowing how much sleep you need doesn’t really mean much. 

Plus, a 2022 study (among others) shows sleep trackers aren’t that accurate at tracking sleep stages anyway. And this research looked at wearable devices that use skin-touching sensors to try and track sleep stages, not just sound and movement.

Learn why you don’t need to track deep sleep and REM sleep here. 

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Circadian Rhythm Tracking

The RISE app tracks your circadian rhythm. Sleep Cycle doesn’t track your circadian rhythm. 

Your circadian rhythm is your internal body clock. How in sync you are with it is another important factor determining how well you sleep and how you feel and perform each day.  

RISE predicts the timing of your circadian rhythm using 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.

You can then: 

  • Know the exact time your energy levels are expected to rise and fall: Integrate RISE with your calendar or get notifications to stay one step ahead. Schedule your day to match your energy levels to optimize your most productive times. If you can’t get enough sleep right now, this will help you make the most of the energy you have.
  • See when your body wants to wake up and go to sleep: Sync up your sleep schedule with these times for an easier time keeping sleep debt low. 
  • See how your sleep affects your energy levels: RISE gives you an Energy Potential score from zero to 100 based on your sleep debt. Lower your sleep debt to get more energy. 
  • Shift the timing of your circadian rhythm: This is the secret to becoming a morning person, getting over jet lag, resetting your sleep schedule, and adjusting to daylight saving time
  • Regularize the timing of your circadian rhythm: A powerful way to boost your energy and mental and physical health. 
  • Know exactly when to do 20+ sleep hygiene behaviors: Doing these habits at the right time for you can make them more effective, helping you fall and stay asleep more easily. 

Sleep Cycle has a Sleep Notes feature that allows you to manually make a note of certain behaviors, like a late afternoon coffee, so you can look for patterns and see if these behaviors affect your sleep quality. You won’t see how these behaviors (or how your sleep times) affect your energy levels. 

We cover more about how RISE predicts your circadian rhythm here and how to use RISE as a personal energy tracker here.

RISE app screenshot showing your energy peaks and dips
The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm.

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

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Other Features

Here’s what else RISE and Sleep Cycle offer:

  • Personalized guidance to get the best sleep: RISE sends you 20+ sleep hygiene recommendations based on your circadian rhythm each day. These sleep habits help you fall and stay asleep. The app also calculates your biological bedtime, syncing up with this time can help you drift off. Sleep Cycle offers advice on ways to improve your sleep, but it’s not customized to you.
  • Smart alarm: RISE tells you, as you’re setting the alarm, whether your wake time will add to your sleep debt. Sleep Cycle’s alarm says it wakes you up gradually during your lightest sleep phase. Research is mixed on whether waking up during deep sleep makes a difference to how groggy you feel (even if an app could track sleep stages). Both alarm clocks wake you up with gentle sounds.
  • Content to help you fall asleep: Both apps have libraries of content to help you wind down before bed, such as guided breathing exercises, white noise, and soothing sleep sounds. Sleep Cycle has a larger library that also includes sleep stories and ASMR. 
  • Sound recording: Sleep Cycle tracks snoring, coughing, or talking in your sleep. If your partner snores, they can use the app too (they’ll need their own subscription and you’ll both need iPhones) so you can differentiate the sounds. 
  • Heart rate: RISE doesn’t track your heart rate. Sleep Cycle does track your heart rate. This information may or may not be useful to you.
  • Sleep notes: In Sleep Cycle, you can make a note of whether you’ve had a late coffee, workout, or meal to see if these behaviors affect your sleep. Pair with RISE to see if they affect your sleep debt and energy levels. 
RISE app screenshot showing relaxation session reminders
The RISE app has guided breathing and relaxation exercises.

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Cost

The RISE app costs $69.99 a year, which works out to $5.83 a month

You can try RISE free for seven days to find out your sleep need, sleep debt, and circadian rhythm predictions. You can also see how timed sleep hygiene habit reminders can help you get more sleep and energy. 

Sleep Cycle costs $39.99 a year (at the time of writing), which works out to $3.33 a month

You can do a one-week free trial. There is a free version of Sleep Cycle. This includes features like the smart alarm and sleep tracking. You won’t get features like the sound recordings, content library, or full access to all of the statistics.

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RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle Reviews

Here’s what users love about using RISE and Sleep Cycle together: 

  • “Love the specific-to-me predictions and schedules! It’s great to have the integration with Apple Health and Sleep Cycle data to analyze my sleep needs and help me to know my energy peaks, dips, and Melatonin Window!” Read the review.
  • “RISE + Sleep Cycle = Sleep accountability. Together, they act as an incredible tool to make sure I’m not skimping on one of the most important areas of health. Do recommend.” Read the review
  • “I use RISE alongside another app called Sleep Cycle and highly recommend they are used together. RISE can integrate the data from Sleepcycle into its app which is great!” Read the review.
  • “It has really helped me fix up my sleep patterns and understand where peaks and slumps in my day are. I use this in conjunction with Sleep Cycle/watch data. I like that RISE warns you when not to have any further caffeine.” Read the review

RISE App vs. Sleep Cycle: The Final Verdict

RISE tracks — and helps you improve — your sleep debt and circadian rhythm. These are the two sleep and energy metrics that make the biggest difference to your days. We’ve found 80% of users feel the benefits in as little as five days.

Sleep Cycle records sounds at night and has a larger library of content to help you drift off. You can also use the app to find out how long it takes you to fall asleep and track your sleep regularity. 

You can combine the two to get sleep debt and circadian rhythm insights and personalized guidance from RISE and sound recordings, further sleep metrics, and a wider choice of relaxing content from Sleep Cycle.

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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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