App Review: Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

App Review: Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
Last week I happened to see a tweet about a new iPhone app called Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. As I am a notoriously crappy sleeper – and the app was pretty cheap – I decided to try it out. The idea is that your movements in bed are a fairly accurate indicator of which stage of sleep you’re in. (This isn’t snake oil; it’s called actigraphy and sleep clinics use it.) The accelerometer in the iPhone registers your movements through the night and therefore knows what stage of sleep you’re in. You set the time you want to wake up, and the app wakes you up at the optimum point in your sleep cycle in the half-hour window before the alarm. I’ve just been resting the iPhone face-down on the corner of the bed, not covered by anything. (It hasn’t fallen off yet.) I ran the “test” phase the first night, where you move around and it makes sounds to show it’s registering the movements of the mattress. Interestingly, it did register when the Snook rolled over but I didn’t, which made me wonder whether it would be accurate. I also wondered whether the cats’ daily wrestling match on the bed at 5am would mess it up. At any rate, the first two nights we used it, the alarm just went off at the specified time. (I expected that; they say it can take a couple nights to get calibrated for your sleep patterns.) Since then, I’ve had two days where it went off before the set time and I definitely noticed that I was awake instantly, without any grogginess. The first day, I actually turned it off and went back to sleep for half an hour (since I’d set it a bit early), and I noticed when I got up the second time that I felt more sleepy and crappy. This morning, I got up as soon as it went off and felt great. The Snook said he also felt better than usual, so maybe it does work fine for two people (or else our sleep cycles have synchronised over the years). I’m still not convinced it isn’t just the placebo effect. Maybe I feel awake and energised because I want the thing to work? Only more experimentation will tell. I’m eagerly awaiting the 2.0 update, which will actually graph your sleep cycles from the previous night. Theoretically then I could do some experiments sleeping on my own to see whether the Snook is throwing off my timing. So if you’re a bad sleeper like I am – or just a “body hacker” who likes self-experimentation – it’s a great little app to play with. Does exactly what it says on the tin!


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  1. I think I’m going to try it as well. Did you have alarms set simultaneously for you and the Snook? I’m thinking of trying running it with the gf on two iPhones, one at each corner of the bed. Keep us posted on possible placebo effect wearing off.

  2. He hasn’t bothered to put it on his yet, mostly because mine is always the one we use for our (joint) alarm. It’ll be interesting to see if you do it and they go off at different times!

  3. Ran the first calibration last night. We had them both plugged in and testing, and it seemed like the mattress isolated the two halves perfectly. Just lucky, perhaps. Can’t wait to wake up Saturday morning. (Definitely the first time I’ve said that…)

  4. Did you see the 2.0 version came out YESTERDAY! (It might even be the one you downloaded!) Got to see my first graph today. Thanks to the cats, I was stuck in deep sleep the whole half-hour window so I just woke up with the alarm at the normal time (groggy).

  5. Weird. Their Twitter says it was posted at about 5 last night (my time). Not sure how I missed it, but I’m looking forward to seeing my graph tomorrow morning. This is (surprisingly?) fun– a window of insight into something one normally has no awareness of.

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