Man, they think of everything

A while back, a watch came to the market that could measure your sleep cycles. This watch tracked your pulse while you were asleep. Rather than setting a time to be woken up at, such as 0600, you would set a time range to be woken up in, such as 0530-0600. The watch would use your heart rate and sleep cycles to wake you up in your lightest sleep within your set range. The idea is that it was supposed to emulate a natural wake up process. This is because when you awake out of deep sleep, you feel worse, so this watch would help you wake up fresh each morning. This watch currently retails at $150. I have always thought this would be a cool thing to have, but I never really found any sense in spending all that money for a watch that I wouldn’t use all that much.

I was in the apple store not too long ago with my friend and he was showing me this “cool app” he just got, a mutual friend had told him about it. Turns out, like everything, there is an app for that! It is called the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. This app is $0.99 at the app store. $0.99 is hardly anything these days, but as someone who has never paid for an app, I thought I would do a little research. Turns out, the app is endorsed by CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Being pretty notable and respectable sources, I decided to read more about how this app actually works. Monitoring the heart rate seems like a reasonable way to measure sleep cycles, since your heart rate is different during the different cycles. However, I knew that the iPhone did not have those capabilities. It turns out, this enhanced alarm clock uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to analyze sleep patterns. According to sleep therapists, when you are coming out of deep sleep, you begin to adjust your position, and this app detects this movement.

This app not only works to wake you when in your lightest sleep, but it also measures how well you slept. Calmer and longer sleeps give a higher score. You can set the time interval for the alarm, or you may choose to use no alarm at all so you wake naturally. You can add daily notes to see how different things such as alcohol, exercise, and caffeine affect your sleep.

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3 Responses to Man, they think of everything

  1. hoffalex says:

    Interesting topic. An app that wakes you up in your lightest sleep certainly has interesting applications. One thing that I would be curious about is its reliability. I’d imagine that, if it’s judging whether or not you’re in deep sleep solely by using the accelerometer, then there would probably be a few false positives. I imagine that, in particular, it might be a problem for users who are tossing and turning while they’re trying to get to sleep. It seems as though, if the app is too imprecise in its measurements, it could mistake shifts in position while awake for shifts in position coming out of deep sleep. Of course, it could also be that it’s precise enough to address this problem.

  2. julianami says:

    This is a really interesting app, and a brilliant, cheap alternative to the watch, but I wonder how well it works in practice. I can see how a watch around your wrist would be able to measure your pulse, etc, but how exactly is the app supposed to work (as in, are you supposed to wear your phone when you sleep? how do you charge it if your charger isn’t right by your bed? what if you toss and turn and become separated from the phone?), and how could it adjust/personalize itself for everyone who uses it? I know that I tend to have low-quality sleep, just because I’m constantly thinking/worrying and I often have very vivid dreams, but other people I know fall into deep, quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed after only a few hours. I’m definitely interested in knowing more about how the application adjusts itself for each individual’s unique needs.

  3. jayraina says:

    I’ve been a diligent user of this application for the past few months. At first, I thought it was just the placebo effect. I really started doing my research though, and the application definitely helps in certain ways.
    The reason it asks you to take ‘notes’ is so you can find triggers that help you sleep well or don’t help you sleep well. To comment on the accelerometer tracking movement while you sleep – the accelerometer in the iPhone is known to be a very quality one, and in deep sleep, people really shouldn’t move that much (there’s variation in your sleeping from deep to light throughout the night as depicted in the graph with the peaks and troughs). I personally think it’s a great app, and at just $.99, I definitely encourage you guys to at least try it!

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