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Do you really need to keep your screen on overnight for Pokémon Sleep?

An investigation with interest in saving your phone battery

A hand holds a phone with a sleep graph from Pokémon Sleep on it Image: Niantic, Select Button/The Pokémon Company
Julia Lee (she/her) is a guides producer, writing guides for games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Genshin Impact. She helped launch the Rift Herald in 2016.

The first time you play Pokémon Sleep, the sleep-tracking, Pokémon-catching mobile game, you’ll be prompted to leave your phone screen on but to just put your phone face down on the bed. That said, you’ll need to keep your phone plugged in as well, or else you risk your phone battery dying overnight.

(For context, I’m using an iPhone 13 that has seen better days to play Pokémon Sleep, so my experiences may be the same as those who use an Android or a newer iPhone.)

The plus side is that flipping your phone over will dim the screen, though it won’t actually lock your phone. The screen will stay on, and while it’s mostly replaced by black space, you’ll still see the time, service provider information, and battery indicators at the top of your display. Obviously, people (myself included) are apprehensive about leaving their phone screens on overnight.

The other option, as stated by the game, is to invest in the Pokémon Go Plus Plus, a little gadget that will track your sleep for you, instead of your phone.

The Go Plus Plus costs $55.

The first morning I woke up after keeping my phone screen on, my phone was hot and it wasn’t even fully charged. (It was at roughly 80%. Usually, when I plug it in at the end of the night, it’s fully charged by morning.)

As a person who likes Pokémon games (even when those games are silly mobile spin-offs), I had to figure it out: Do I actually need to keep my phone screen on while I sleep?

Here’s the answer I got: No, unless you are really trying to get accurate sleep data and max out your Pokémon gainz. If you are just trying to encourage healthy sleeping habits and find some cute friends in the morning, you can turn your screen off.

If you turn your phone screen off after starting your sleep tracking and look at your lock screen, you’ll see the little orange microphone in the top left corner, indicating that Pokémon Sleep is still tracking your sounds (on iOS, at least), so it’s not like the app needs to be actively open and on your screen to pick up sounds.

Four Pokémon Sleep recordings, cutting off at various times.
Please don’t judge my lack of sleep Thursday night, I stayed up late reading manga.
Image: Niantic, Select Button/The Pokémon Company via Polygon

So far, I’ve tried turning my phone screen off four times. My phone made it through the entire night, recording my sleep, on two of those occasions. When my alarm went off, I just picked up my phone, unlocked the screen, reopened the app, and ended my sleep session.

The other two times, the app would close in the background, ending my sleep session prematurely. On Tuesday it ended at almost 5 a.m., and on Thursday it almost made it to morning, but fell around 10 minutes shy of my usual wake up time. The app just told me my sleep data was interrupted, but I was still able to review it anyway. I tried to free up some phone power by closing all my other apps before bedtime, but it still would close (or crash?) in the background randomly.

That said, there is a risk that, if the app closes within 90 minutes of when you start the sleep session, you won’t save any data, since all sessions need to be at least 90 minutes long. This isn’t a problem I ran into, but, again, I’ve only tried it four times (so far).

Maybe if I had a more powerful phone, the tracking would have lasted the whole night, but I didn’t really care as I was still able to review my research and catch Pokémon come morning. I won’t be making any Snorlax high score tables, but that’s OK.

Polygon reached out to The Pokémon Company to ask for details about why the phone screen needs to be on during tracking, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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