Friday Favorites: Sleep Cycle App

I’m getting a late start on this post today.  My kids are out of school again today (not because of snow even though it snowed again last night) for a teacher workday, so my schedule has been thrown off yet again. I did enjoy sleeping in this morning, though.  I don’t get to do that very often. I am feeling rested and ready for the day. Sleep is such an important piece to your overall health.  I am one of those people who really requires at least 8 hours of sleep a night. I have always known this about me. I know that my body and mind function way better when I have had at least 8 hours.  Even when I was in college, I was the nerd that went to bed between 9 and 10 every night.  For the majority of my life, I have tried to stick to a bedtime of around 9:00. This was especially true when I was teaching because I got up at 5:00 every morning so going to bed at 9 would give me the needed 8 hours of sleep in theory.   I have always had a hard time falling asleep, though. It takes a while for my brain to stop running so I often ended up with only 6-7 hours of sleep. It has really been since I stopped teaching that my bedtime has gotten later and later despite the fact that I get up around 6:00. Part of it is because my daughter doesn’t get out of gymnastics practice until 10:00 most nights so it is impossible to go to bed earlier. The other part of it is that this is the time that I get to spend with my husband.  We will watch TV together or we will just lay in bed and talk for a bit. He on the other hand is a person that can live off of just 2 hours of sleep. That is partly due to necessity because of his job. It has always driven me crazy that he can fall asleep within 2 seconds of his head hitting the pillow.  I’m not exaggerating.  I’m super jealous. Anyway, I do feel like I am tired a lot more during the day now that I go to bed later and get less sleep.  It’s like I can never get enough.

Why am I telling you my sleep habits? I’m sure you really don’t care.  The point is to share with you one of my favorite apps on my phone. It is called Sleep Cycle. My husband introduced me to it about 2 years ago. We both use it every night. This app is really cool because it tracks your sleep patterns and serves as an alarm clock.  You set it at night before you go to bed to the time you need to get up, then set your phone down on a table beside you, and it records your sleep.  Somehow based on the sounds it hears throughout the night, it can determine the times when you were awake, were in deep sleep, and when you were in a lighter sleep.  In the mornings it will tell you how long you were in bed, your sleep quality, if you snored, and how many steps you took that day. Over time, you can look at graphs that show your sleep patterns over days, weeks, and even months. It is pretty cool to see it all laid out in a graph. My husband and I always compare our sleep quality percentage.  My sleep quality for last night was 89%. You can see below my sleep graph for last night. I was awake between 5:00-6:00 and then fell back asleep. The night before my sleep quality was 81%.

The other cool thing is the alarm feature.  You can choose to set it up like a normal alarm that wakes you up at the time you set it, or you can choose to set it up to use a wake cycle.  For the wake cycle, you would set the alarm like you normally do for the time you want to wake up. The difference is that it will wake you up sometime around the time you set it, but it will be when you are in your in your lightest sleep. This a more natural way to wake up.  For example, let’s say that you set it for 6:00 AM.  Then the app senses that you are in a light sleep phase at 5:45. The alarm will start out at a soft volume and begin to wake you up at 5:45 even though you set it for 6:00. Now, you can set it so that it will only do this within 10 minutes of your set time or you can set it so that it can wake you up in your lightest sleep for up to 90 minutes before your set time.  The app actually recommends that you set it for 30 minutes but the choice it yours. This prevents the alarm from waking you up from a deep, dead sleep. It wakes you up in a more natural way which is really cool.

Here are some other cool features to the app.

  • Sound-choose from multiple soothing sounds that wake you up in a natural way by beginning to play softly and then increasing in volume until you turn it off.
  • Vibration-used when the sound does not wake you up
  • Snooze-can be set for anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes of snooze time
  • Weekend-allows you to set the days of the week that you only want sleep analysis but no alarm to sound
  • Sleep Aid-emits a soothing sound to help you fall asleep. (I use this a lot when my husband is away to help me fall asleep faster.)***
  • Sleep Notes-allows you to track how different activities like drinking alcohol, drinking coffee, or exercise affect your sleep quality***
  • Weather-displays the weather when you wake up***
  • Heart Rate-measures your heart rate when you wake up.  It does this by analyzing the color changes on the tip of your finger when placed on the phone’s home button***
  • Philips Hue-allows the phone to wake you up with lights rather than sound***
  • Apple Watch-The app can be paired with your Apple Watch if you wear it at night to track your heart rate throughout the night. (I don’t use this feature because I can’t sleep with my watch on.)

Many of the above features (***) only come with the Premium subscription which is $29.99 per year. Fortunately, when I got the app two years ago, it was a paid app, so I automatically got the premium features without having to pay the subscription fee.  While the free features are cool alone, the premium option gives you much more data and allows you to track your patterns over a longer period of time.  I recommend the premium features, but I understand not wanting to pay for the subscription.  Try out the free version and see what you think.  If you really like it and want more detailed tracking and the options that come with the premium subscription, then go for it. 

Here are some more cool charts to show my sleep patterns over time.

Again, both my husband and I love this app. It is one that we use daily and would both recommend that you at least give the free version a try. It is pretty cool to see your sleep patterns all laid out in the graphs, and the alarm feature is awesome. The app is available for Apple and Android users. Go check it out!

Anchored and Rested,

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