Apptitude: Sleep Cycle didn’t help him wake refreshed — or at all


(Courtesy of Sleepcycle.com)
July 17

I don’t sleep. Well, that might not be totally accurate. I can fall asleep easily but frequently wake several times during the night. Often, I get out of bed to work for an hour or two. In the search for answers,I’ve taken two lab-based sleep tests, which indicated I have minor sleep apnea.

My Fitbit, which I bought to measure physical activity, also tracks my sleep. Typical results show I’m awake three times a night, restless 11 to 15 times, and tired when the alarm goes off.

Since I’m an expert on (not) sleeping, I thought it would be cool to test an app that doesn’t just track sleep but is designed to help users rise more refreshed. Sleep Cycle bills itself as “a bio-alarm clock that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase.” This is preferable to being disturbed during deep sleep, which, according to Sleep Cycle’s Web site, can turn your day into “one long zombie marathon.”

I was skeptical that the app could detect my sleep phases since there was nothing to physically connect me to my smartphone. I wear my Fitbit on my wrist. Sleep Cycle uses the accelerometer on your phone, which you place at the head of the bed under the bottom sheet, to sense movement as you sleep. The app did seem to pick up all my movements, but when I left the bed in the middle of the night, it thought I was in deep sleep. (My Fitbit thinks I’m just restless during those time periods.)

During a week of testing, Sleep Cycle, which proved easy to use, showed my “sleep quality,” based on total time asleep and amount of movement, varying from 60 to 90 percent. That’s not a surprise or greatly different from my Fitbit results, though the 90 percent occured on a night after I had two drinks, which is counter to what the app suggests on its Web site.

The app is supposed to wake you during your lightest sleep phase within 30 minutes of the time set on your alarm; i.e., if your alarm is set for 7 a.m., it should wake you anytime between 6:30 and 7. That sounds like a solid theory, but Sleep Cycle never woke me up before my set alarm time — it apparently never thought I was ready.

Once awakened, either by your own music or one of the app’s soothing sounds, you are asked to record how you feel, using smiley/frowny faces. I hit a happy face only once, and then it was more or less as an ironic gesture.

The app, while simple to use, is probably best for people who sleep by themselves. It offers those soothing sounds — such as “babbling brook,” “ocean waves,” and “cabin humm” — to lull you to sleep. When the app senses you are falling asleep, it turns down the volume and eventually turns off. I never got to that point, because my wife yelled, “What’s that noise?”

Sleep Cycle’s Web site states it’s working on the next version of the “sleep quality” metric, which would include factors such as waking in the middle of the night and percentage of deep sleep.

I don’t think I’ll need it. I already know I don’t sleep.

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Stats

NAME: Sleep Cycle

COST: 99 cents iTunes, $1.99 Google Play

OPERATING SYSTEM: iOS, Android

CREATOR: Northcube

USER RATINGS: Apple, (68,357 ratings,
all versions); Google Play, (434 ratings)

REVIEW’S BOTTOM LINE:Possibly helpful for those who actually do sleep. Yawn.

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