Sleeping? There’s an app for that

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 3, 2013

I have always considered myself a good sleeper.

I rarely toss and turn, and usually wake up in the same spot in which I remember falling asleep. When I sleep alone, I don’t bother turning back the covers on the other side, because I rarely disturb them.

What I’m not good at is falling asleep. More specifically, I’m not good at making myself stop whatever interests me, or whatever task I find myself doing, to fall asleep. My dreams aren’t that entertaining, but my books are.

If I pass 10:30 p.m., I’m likely to get energized and be productive until 2.

Consequently, I’m also not very good at waking up early, even with Melatonin as my friend.

So I was tickled last weekend when I read about a smartphone app called Sleep Cycle. A few moments and a mere 99 cents later, it was mine.

Unbeknownst to me, there’s an accelerometer in the iPhone that can measure movement. With Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock, the user places the phone face down near his or her pillow. The accelerometer measures how much the person moves and determines what phase of sleep he’s in.

Then it uses the data to calculate when you’ll be in the lightest phase of sleep. Depending upon inputs from the user, the alarm will sound in a 30-minute window of time prior to the “must wake up” alarm time. Just touching the phone when it begins to wake you is like hitting the snooze button on your alarm.

For a wake-up tone, you can choose soothing sounds from the app, or any music stored in the phone.

I was up for all of that. The first morning I was doubtful that it really was all of that, but the second morning, the smartphone woke me at just the perfect time. A week later, I’m not sorry I spent 99 cents, but I am still setting a second alarm.

There’s only one problem.

The app also charts your sleep patterns each night and assigns a “grade” for how well you slept. It asks you to put in factors, like whether or not your day was stressful (well, there is that deadline), and whether or not you drank coffee or tea (both!).

As firstborn and a certified overachiever, I’m not liking the low scores I sometimes get on sleep quality, and I have to be careful not to let the phone’s measurement of how well I slept affect how I feel in the morning.

Still, it’s a pretty amazing thing, and I think I’ll adapt well. Maybe I’ll even work at getting a little more sleep to improve that score.

Not likely, but maybe. Those books are really interesting.