What I’ve Got: Sleep Cycle

by post_author

Sleep cycle seems like a product that shouldn’t work: the premise of the app is that, by measuring your sleep cycles, knows when you’re in the lightest phase of sleep and can wake up at just the right time. You give it a time interval and it uses your phone’s accelerometer to work out which stage of sleep you’re in.

I like the app because even though it is clunky and takes a while to learn to get right, it works. And it works really well – I can easily get away with 5 hours of sleep and still feel great the next day. Even though some nights I do forget to use it, I’ve used it a 161 times since downloading it onto my phone last year. Every morning after I wake up I get to see this, my sleep graph:

There are all kinds of useful stats that let my see which days I get the best sleep in. The app has graphs that tell me which days of the week are the best for me, and what time is the best for me to go to bed. I am at my most productive and creative in the late hours of the night and Sleep Cycle lets my plan the days on which I can stay up late, and lets me calculate the times that I can work until. 

I think that the app is appealing to me not just because it lets me wake up easily in the mornings but also because it appeals to a deeper desire to have control over my body, similar to a fitness regime or diet. The app lets me get hard data on a realm of my experience that I previously had no access to. 

I realise that this product is not for everyone and that some people reject this idea outright because of a belief that some parts of our lives shouldn’t be quantified and optimized. I find myself agreeing with this sentiment but I find it interesting that my roommate draws this line much sooner than I do: where I use the app every day, he is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of monitoring his own sleep. 

This leads to an interesting point: this is an app that is very appealing to some users but some parts of society just isn’t ready for it yet: the quantified self is an idea that to some people is not just alien but also repulsive. The same can surely be said for many other industry segments and as designers we need to be conscious of this: what’s appealing to early adopters might never enter the mainstream because some ideas just have an inherent “yuck” factor. 

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