Sleep app fun

by Kim on March 6, 2013

Everyone knows that sleep is important for health, so I’m not going to bore you with a bunch of lame textbook info you’ve already heard a million times. I’ll just assume that we’re all on the same page about the fact that, in order to look, feel, and perform at your peak, you need A LOT of sleep. And good sleep—like, the deep, uninterrupted, REM-loaded kind.

Obviously, since I have a baby, my sleep expectations have been pretty low for the past year, and the idea of “sleep improvement strategies,” kind of laughable. But now that Mason’s almost one (!!), I think I can finally start expecting my zzz’s to count for something again.

So when Brent told me he was going to try out a sleep app called Sleep as Android on his phone a few weeks ago, I was intrigued. Have you heard of this kind of thing?

sleep as android

Basically, you put your phone under your pillow before bed, and the app tracks your movements throughout the night. Then, it uses that information to figure out your sleep cycles, monitoring when you’re sleeping lightly and when you’re in a deep sleep. It’s designed to wake you up when you’re sleeping the lightest within a certain window of time around your usual alarm time.

The idea is that it prevents you from being yanked out of a deep sleep by your alarm, so you wake up feeling more rested and ready to skip off to the gym stumble to the coffee pot.

At first, I’ll admit I was crazy skeptical. My phone can somehow detect my sleep cycles?? Give me a break. (It also felt weirdly Big Brother-ish…like, it’s going to be WATCHING ME SLEEP?)

But the app is free, so I thought, what the heck. Let’s see what this is all about.

I didn’t need the alarm feature, since I have a small human alarm (that doesn’t give two shiz what sleep cycle I’m in when it feels the urge to go off), but I thought it would be interesting to see the graphs and get some real data on how well I’m actually sleeping at night.

Here’s an example of what the graphs look like (from the app’s website):

sleep app 3

The top of the graph represents light sleep, and the bottom deep. It also shows you the percentage of time you’re in deep sleep.

You can also compare the night’s sleep to previous nights’ in the summary view:

sleep app 2

Pretty sweet, huh?

Now, let me show you some of my actual data… (I know, you’re on the EDGE OF YOUR SEAT)

Here’s how I slept a couple nights ago:

IMG_2903

I slept from about 11:23 to 7:27 (although I don’t think that’s quite right…it took me awhile to fall asleep, and if you’re lying there awake, the app just registers it as light sleep). I think the massive, off-the-chart upswings at 2:30 and 6 are both times when Mason started crying randomly. (Dang teething.)

And here’s a peek at my graph summary:

IMG_2902

It looks like I generally get my best, deepest sleep from about 3-5 in the morning, and I’m getting roughly 8 hours of sleep a night, which is good (and surprising!).

It also looks like my bedtime is rarely ever earlier than 11 PM…hmm, maybe I should work on that. (Especially since that means I’m rarely actually sleeping before 11:30 or, some nights, midnight.)

As for the alarm part of the app, I asked Brent what he thought of it, and he had mixed feelings. It sounds like it does work…you just have to be ready/willing to actually get up earlier than you otherwise would.

So, if you set the app to wake you up between 6:30 and 7:00, and it detects that you’re in a light sleep state at 6:30, then that’s when you’re getting woken up. A lot of people would be tempted to snooze for 20 or 30 minutes at that point, knowing that you technically don’t have to get up until 7:00. But if the app’s strategy is accurate, you won’t be any more rested at 7:00, so you might as well just get up.

sleep app 1

Wait. Extra free time in the morning?? That seems awesome—your wide-awake and well-rested brain is probably going, “well, I’d just read for awhile!” or “I’d get up and have a nice leisurely breakfast!” But when all you want in the WORLD is just a little more sleep, and you’re offered 30 minutes of it on a silver platter, it’s hard to turn that down.

On the other hand, if you’re in a deep sleep for the entire stretch of time you’ve configured as your wake-up window, you’ll ultimately have to get yanked out of that deep sleep at the end of the allotted time. Which might lead you to think the app is a total joke, even though it worked correctly.

So the concept itself is not necessarily flawless, but it sounds like it does work if you’re willing to fully embrace it.

And the graphs are just cool.

Oh, and there’s one more potential little hiccup: one night, my phone overheated so badly under my pillow that it stopped charging and showed a warning message. Oops!

What’s your typical bedtime? How many hours of sleep do you usually get?

What’s your secret for great sleep?

Exercise? A special pillow?

Have you ever tried a sleep app?

(Non-smart-phone users: sorry! I’m not trying to rub it in, I swear…)

P.S. If you’re not feeling the whole app approach, Huff Post recently posted some good strategies for making your AM wakeup call less painful.

P.P.S. This post wasn’t sponsored by the app or anything. I have no affiliation with them whatsoever—just enjoyed using the product and wanted to tell you about it. Hooray for unintentional viral marketing!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley April 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Verrry interesting… is it android only or is there an iphone version? I’d definitely try it even though tampering with the precious sleep makes me nervous.
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Kim April 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm

This one’s Android only, but I bet there’s something similar for iPhone.

I know, sleep is crazy precious. :) But it doesn’t hurt to try.

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Matt March 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

This is great. A friend says that if your child is happy and you are exhausted, you’re doing it right. But it doesn’t mean you can’t try and make sleep a more resourceful activity!

I also ran across this post:
http://neighborhood.vivint.com/tech-neighbor/sleep-apps/

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Clara March 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm

I love lots of sleep! I’ve heard about this concept of deep and light sleep before it might be worth looking into because I usually snooze a lot in the morning and I really want to just get up and feel awake immediately.

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Jessica @ Prayers and Apples March 7, 2013 at 8:40 am

My brother told me about the same kind of app with the iPhone.. My biggest problem with sleep lately is forcing myself to get some! I don’t know what’s up with me, I just haven’t been tired? (I’m sure it’ll all come crashing down one morning soon when I *really* need to get up early lol)
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Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie March 7, 2013 at 8:17 am

I want to try that app, it sounds awesome!
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Kelly March 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm

This seems like a super interesting way to track sleep! My only question (and maybe it is different with an Android than it is with an iPhone) but what about when your phone gets a notification in the middle of the night? If I put my iPhone under my pillow at night it would vibrate every time I got an email or other notification, which would definitely not help my sleep! Maybe the app silences all other notification since you should be sleeping when you are using the app anyways? I’ll have to see if there is an app like that for iPhone.
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Kim March 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I always silence my phone at night, and my alarms still come through fine. I assume this works the same way (although I haven’t actually used that piece of the app, so I’m not 100% sure).

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sarah @ sarah learns March 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

i use my fitbit to track my sleep – i find it so interesting!!

i also have a super nice technogel pillow. i love it & i definitely notice a difference when i sleep somewhere else.
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Kim March 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Interesting! I’ve thought about getting something like that, but haven’t been able to justify the expense yet … maybe someday!

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Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome March 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

How interesting! We might have to give this a try to see what our sleep patterns are like. Thanks for sharing!
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Suzanne March 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm

How neat! I’ve heard of sleep apps but haven’t tried one because I hadn’t seen anyone actually talk about how they felt about it. After reading this I’m going to download one to use. Thanks for the info!
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Kim March 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Hope you find it as interesting as I did :)

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Nicole @ Fruit 'N' Fitness March 6, 2013 at 11:01 am

That is so interesting! I have never tried a sleep app. Like Sarah I move around a lot when I sleep. I know that I normally fall asleep best after working on homework and reading for awhile. I like to have at least a few minutes reading away from the computer.
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PickyRunner March 6, 2013 at 7:33 am

Wow this is really really interesting! I’ve never heard of this app but it would be really cool to just see how I’m sleeping. I wonder how it actually works… I move around a TON when I sleep so I bet it would look really crazy for me haha
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Brent March 6, 2013 at 10:09 am

Hi Picky, the app actually uses your smart phone’s built in accelerometer (thing that can detect when your phone is moving around) to do the monitoring. If you move around a lot, my guess is that it would treat that like a non-deep sleep.

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Kim March 6, 2013 at 10:28 am

Haha…Picky = Sarah. :)

Sarah, I still don’t 100% get it either, but it seems to legitimately work! It is really cool to see what’s going on at night. It can even record noises you make so you can hear yourself sleep-talk, haha.

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