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Use your iPhone's hidden sleep timer to fall asleep soundly

Forget your sleep timer app, iOS has a better one built in.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A common feature you'll find on televisions, all sleep timers are pretty much the same. Start playing some media, set a timer and watch or listen until you doze off. After the specified time has elapsed, playback will end and, in some cases, the device will power off.

If you like to play music, watch videos, or listen to white noise with your iPhone or iPad while you fall asleep, you've likely become acquainted with a sleep timer app (or three) on your iOS device. However, iOS has actually had a sleep timer built in since iOS 7, but it's not easy to find if you don't know where to look.

Here's how to use it.

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How to use the sleep timer in iOS

The reason so many people overlook the native sleep timer is because it's sort of tucked away with next to no mention anywhere. And, technically, it's not called a sleep timer. It's buried in the Clock app under -- you guessed it -- Timer.

It makes perfect sense to put it there. After all, it's just a timer. But rather than playing a sound after the timer has finished, it stops anything that's playing.

So why use this over one of the many third-party apps? Not only will it allow you to delete an unneeded app from your phone, it also, unlike third-party sleep timers, doesn't require the Clock app to be left open with the screen on for the sleep timer to actually do its job.

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Taylor Martin/CNET

To set a sleep timer in iOS:

  • Open the Clock app. (You can quickly launch Clock from anywhere by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and tapping on the clock icon.)
  • Tap on Timer in the bottom right corner to switch to the correct tab.
  • Set the timer length that you want in hours and minutes.
  • Tap When Timer Ends.
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom and select Stop Playing.
  • Tap Set in the upper right corner.
  • Click Start to start the timer.

Whether you're watching a movie, YouTube videos, streaming music in Spotify or listening to a podcast, the Stop Playing function of the timer will stop any media that's currently playing. It will also lock your device so your screen won't stay on if you've been watching a video -- which is helpful to save your battery if your device isn't being charged.

Your preference to stop playing media when the timer finishes will be remembered, so if you want to quickly set a sleep timer in the future, swipe up from the bottom of the screen, force touch on the clock icon and select one of the preset times. 

This also means that you'll need to go back into the Clock app and select a ringtone if you ever want an audible timer in the future.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.