I've had Sleep Cycle on my iPhone for about the last two months and its actually revolutionalised the way I sleep - or more specifically, the way that I wake up. The application cost me 59p from the iPhone Applications Store - and it downloaded directly into my phone in approximately 1 minute.
The idea of Sleep Cycle is that it monitors your sleeping patterns throughout the night so that it wakes you at the best time for you to be woken. You basically program in the latest time you can wake up - and then set a period before that in which you would be happy to be woken up. It is recommended that you give at least a 30 minute wake-up window before your latest wake up time. The concept is that if you are woken up during the time when you are in the lightest sleep phase - which your phone estimates based on the amount movement you make in bed - then you are going to be most easily woken and feel the most awake.
In order to use Sleep Cycle you are told to test your phone by putting it in bed with you and then the phone should alarm every time that you move. If it alarms then you know you've placed the phone in an appropriate position. I tend to place the phone face down just below my pillow and it picks up movement very well from here. There are different alarms to choose from and so you can pick the alarm which is most likely to wake you up - which for me has to be something loud and shrill!
So - to use then, you simply set your alarm, place it face down in bed with you - and then wait to be woken in the morning.
The only annoying thing about using the application is that the phone needs to be plugged in on charge all of the time while the application is running. This is because the phone does not go into standby mode while this application is running and so the battery would be depleted very quickly without having it plugged in.
I have to say that using the app has really helped to ensure that when I wake up I feel alert and refreshed and ready and raring to go.....compared to not using the Sleep Cycle. It has been reliable and always woken me up well within my latest - alarm time......usually 20 - 10 minutes before the alloted time. I don't really mind the lost sleep time because I feel more awake and so for me that's the most important thing. This is an application that I will continue to use - and I am always recommending it to my colleagues and friends.
Now, I may be in the minority here but I have always been slightly fascinated with sleep, and dreams and such. So much so that I even tried my hand in attempting to Lucid Dreaming once. During my lucid dreaming phase i learned a fair amount about different phases of sleep, what characterises them and what they mean. And this, my friends, is what Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is based around.
Now, the idea behind the theory is as simple as can be: Wouldn't being woken up whilst you're lightly sleeping leave you feeling less tired than being torn out of a deep sleep? Of course it would! So Sleep Cycle aims to monitor your movements whilst you are asleep in order to wake you up during one of your light phases of sleep. It does this by using the sensitive accelerometer (I wonder if Apple ever thought their accelerometer would be used for so many damn things!?) on the Iphone to track your bodies movement while you sleep.
So there's the theory, but does it work? In a word (Or not as Oxford Dictionary corrects me): Sorta'. It does make you feel less groggy after being woken up by this but obviously you aren't going to leap out of bed every morning feeling refreshed and invigorated due to being woken up in a gentle fashion. Using the app is really quite simple, you plug your Iphone into the charger to retain battery life, set a time you want waking up (This app works using a 30 minute window, waking you up in the lightest phase of sleep during this window. So set your alarm to the latest you want to be woken up), then you simply place the Iphone face down on the corner of your mattress, and sleep. The actual alarm tones this app uses wake you up quite gently in themselves and I find them much more pleasant to wake up to than the usual incessant, soul destroying beeping.
Being the stat geek I am, the next feature is something I really like about Sleep Cycle. Yes, that's right stat enthusiasts, it comes with GRAPHS! So after being gently woken up you can look at a graph displaying the phases and cycles you went through that night. These graphs are actually helpful too, after using the app for a few weeks I looked at the graphs and was able to spot some patterns in my sleeping cycle. For example, I seem to go through a full cycle every 2.5 hours or so, meaning I can actually predict when I need to go to sleep in order to wake up not feeling like shit, and then set my alarm clock along with it. Some of these graphs are pretty interesting as well, an example being after I pulled an all nighter. So I hadn't slept for a good 36 hours when I finally hit the hay, when I looked at the graph the next day instead of it showing the usual movement through phases and completion of cycles, it seemed I had just been in a very deep sleep for 11 hours straight! Now I don't expect you readers to find that interesting to tell you the truth, but if you are in fact a stat geek like myself, you might do!
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is currently in the Top 25 Paid Apps in the App Store on sale for a measly £0.59, so it isn't really that much to sacrifice to feel slightly more refreshed each morning, even if the results aren't miraculous. But it works.
Ever wondered how much sleep you get in a night? Or what type of sleep you're in? No? Me neither! That was until Sleep Cycle found its way into my life through the magical world of the Apple App store. Those geniuses at Apple really can do anything and Sleep Cycle is just one of the estimated 100,000 apps out there to entertain, educate and enrich your lives in their own unique way.
Sleeping is something that we spend a large portion of our lives doing so it's no wonder that Sleep Cycle has been a hit in the 'Paid App Charts'. What other app can you say has the appeal to every single person in the world? Ok, so every single iPhone and iPod Touch user to narrow it down a little! We all need sleep to survive but don't you just hate it when your alarm goes off in the morning and you instantly feel groggy and will do anything for an extra hour in bed?
This is where Sleep Cycle introduces itself to you in the most polite fashion.
Sleep Cycle is currently available to download from the App store for 59p, bargain eh? Like all apps, it will instantly sync to your iPhone or iPod Touch (if they're plugged in at the time) and will be available to use straight away.
So what does Sleep Cycle offer that a regular alarm clock doesn't I hear you ask? Well I'll tell you - Sleep Cycle monitors your sleep throughout the night and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase, aiming to wake you up feeling refreshed and no longer tempted to push the snooze button on your alarm clock. Sleep Cycle also presents you with a graph after your alarm has gone off, which tells you the different phases of sleep that you went though, throughout the night. Sounds ingenious doesn't it? Does it sound like something you could benefit from? I bet it does, so read on...
Sleep Cycle works by monitoring your movement during your sleep. You're given clear, crisp instructions once you load the application up on your iPhone and you're presented with pictures showing you how everything works. To put it simply, you place your iPhone face down on your bed next to your pillow. There is a picture which illustrates where to place your phone, however if you're still unsure there is a quick test you can do. Simply select 'Test' from the menu bar at the bottom and you'll be instructed to press start before quickly placing the iPhone face down like in the picture. You then proceed to lie on your back and gently turn over to your front. As the iPhone monitors your movement it emits a gentle sound to let you know you've placed your phone in the right position. Can't hear any sound? Well you've either placed the phone in the wrong place, or, you've been silly enough to put your phone on silent before opening the app!
Placing the phone in the correct position doesn't require a lot of skill as the instructions and pictures really are very simple to follow and they guide you through a 'what to do' and 'what not to do' when placing the iPhone in the correct position. The movement monitor is very sensitive indeed and will sense the smallest of movements, which gives you faith in the app straight away. Once you're aware of where to correctly place your phone, you have the option of exploring the different options of the app. Firstly is the settings menu which allows you to change your alarm tone. There are 8 different alarm tones, all very gentle sounds, so nothing too in your face or opposable and they all wake you very gently. One thing I'd like to see in a future update would be the opportunity to choose your own alarm tone from your songs, however I do think this could somewhat defeat the object of the exercise in waking you gently, but the option would be a nice inclusion.
Once your alarm tone is chosen there's nothing left to do than to select 'Alarm' in the menu and set your alarm time. As the app wakes you in your lightest phase of sleep, it's unlikely that you'll always be woken up dead on your alarm time. However, don't worry, if your alarm is set for 6am it's not going to go off at 3am. The alarm works within a 30 minute time gap. Meaning that if you're alarm is set for 7am, the app will start monitoring your sleep pattern from 6.30am to 7am and whenever you're in the lightest phase of sleep the alarm will sound. That could mean that you're woken up 6.35am which could be seen as an annoyance but on the other hand, if the alarm does what it's supposed to do (more on that soon) then you'll be refreshed, ready for the day ahead and you won't worry about 25 minutes of extra sleep that you could have had.
You're told that when you use the app you should keep your phone on charge at all times. If you currently use an iPhone you'll be aware of the dubious battery life so keeping the phone on charge throughout the night is a good idea. However, if you don't have access to a plug next to your bed, fear not, as if the phone is fully charged before you go to bed then the app should deplete only about 40% of the battery. Yes, this could be seen as excessive, but to be fair the app is going to be active for around 8 hours so you need to allow it some leeway don't you? You may be thinking that you're uncomfortable with leaving your phone switched on overnight so close to your body. If so, the creators of the app have you covered, you're informed in the instructions that if you so wish, you can switch the phone into airplane mode before setting the app up. This is done by visiting the 'Settings' tab in your iPhone and you'll find 'Airplane Mode' right at the top of the settings page.
So onto the most important part... does it actually work?
I've been using the app for around 3 weeks now and have used it every single night. Most of the time I'll be woken up around 15 minutes before my alarm time which isn't so much of a problem for me. I wouldn't say that the app wakes you up feeling refreshed and fully awake, because whatever the time is, you're always going to feel a little groggy when you've just woken up. However, I have noticed something of a difference as to how tired I am when I'm woken in the morning. The alarm wakes you very gently and can sometimes take a minute or so before you notice it. The thing that I really like about the alarm is that it doesn't wake my boyfriend when he's asleep as it's very quiet, only just loud enough to wake you up. The volume is adjustable though depending on how loud or quiet you require it.
So, you're woken up 15 minutes early than your usual alarm and you need something to fill the gap before you absolutely have to get up for work in the morning, but what to do? Well examine your sleep graph of course. Once your alarm has sounded you will immediately be greeted with a graph that has calculated your sleep pattern during that night. Once you've used the app on more than one occasion it will start to compile an average sleep time, along with what time you went to sleep/woke up and your actual sleep time. The problem with this is that as soon as you set off the app when you're in bed it immediately assumes you're asleep therefore you're never going to get a 100% accurate reading of your sleep pattern, unless of course you're a cartoon character that falls asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow!
The sleep graph is a nice accessory, but unfortunately it doesn't go into enough detail for you to actually believe it's working properly. At the bottom you'll see the time (1,2,3,4,5) and on the side there will be three different stages (awake, dreaming and deep sleep). It is interesting to look at what the app says you slept in that night but do I trust it 100%? No. The app is just a bit of fun and although it's interesting to use for a week or two, it's not something that I can see myself using night after night in the near future. This is one of those apps that I'll use occasionally but it hasn't completely taken over from my trusty alarm clock.
The app is connected to Facebook and your email account, strangely, not Twitter. This means that once you've had a look at your sleep graph you have the option of sharing it with your friends on Facebook or emailing it to friends and family. A nice option but a little superfluous for this kind of app.
Worth a try for 59p but don't go relying on it.