Cool Apps & Gadgets to Measure (and Improve!) Your Sleep
You find your energy is flagging throughout the day more often than it used to. You’re logging about 8 hours of zzzs each night, but are you not getting enough sleep? Too many late nights at work or weekend parties? Or is something interrupting your sleep habits that you’re not aware of?
Enter sleep tracking apps or gadgets – there are a number of them in the marketplace, ranging from free to a couple hundred bucks, and many of them use your smartphone. Let’s take a quick look at what they offer and how they work.
SleepCycle (iPhone app, $1) seems to be the most popular, but according to several online reviewers, it’s not the most robust. However, if you’re an iPhone user, it’s definitely a good place to start. Number one thing to remember: don’t use it without your iPhone being on its charger, because it zaps a lot of battery strength – which could leave you snoozing long after the alarm was supposed to go off, but didn’t.
That being said, the app monitors your movement during sleep, determining what sleep cycle you’re in. The theory is, the deeper your sleep, the less you move – and the better your sleep quality. Using the alarm, it will wake you during your lightest sleep phase (the closest you are to consciousness), so you don’t experience that major jarring sensation of being jerked awake. It includes some white noise – nature sounds – that may help you relax and sleep. More importantly, it collects data on your restlessness at night and presents it in easy- to-grasp graphs, so that you can note influencing factors such as caffeine intake, stress levels, etc., and how modifying these factors can impact your sleep graphs.
Sleepbot (Android, free), like SleepCycle, uses your phone’s accelerometer to measure your sleep cycle. In fact, this app is very similar to Apple’s version – but one reviewer determined that SleepBotTracker offers a little more analysis such as calculating your sleep debt, along with multiple alarms option. It will also silence your phone while the app is on.
One more cool feature, particularly if your sleep buddy is a snorer: convince them to use SleepBot, because it auto-records snoring, breathing problems, even talking in your sleep!
Wakemate ($60) is a wristband that you wear at night; in the morning, you sync the data on your smartphone or tablet, where you can view your detailed sleep analysis.
FitBit One ($100) also uses a wristband for sleep tracking – but it tracks lots of other health habits and includes a pedometer.
Zeo Personal Sleep Coach ($190) includes a sleep tracking headband you wear at night, along with an alarm clock. The clock saves your sleep data on an SD card that you can upload to your computer for analysis.
Make it work
Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to keep a sleep journal over about a three to four week period: what’s your stress level, what did you eat and drink, what exercise (and at what time) did you include in your day, etc. Over the course of a few weeks, you should be able to spot trends as to how certain activities affect your sleep, so that you can make behavioral changes.
Remember, too, that these are self-help tools – not qualified medical solutions. If you’re having sleeping issues for an extended period of time, you should consult a medical professional.
If you’ve tried one of these apps, how did it help you modify habits to regain your sleep?
Sources: Sleep Cycle App Promises No More Sleepless Nights; Five Best Sleep Tracking Gadgets or Apps; How I Achieved Better Sleep with the Help of Technology; http://www.besthealthmag.ca/embrace-life/sleep/can-a-smart-phone-app-help-you-sleep