Waking up tired is pretty much your body’s way of flipping you off. Maybe you couldn’t fall asleep because of late-night stresses, or maybe your neighbor spent all night practicing their Tibetan throat singing. Either way, fighting with your snooze button and your responsibilities isn’t the greatest way to start your day.
What if you woke up every morning feeling like a million bucks? A sleep cycle app could be your one-way ticket to becoming a morning person. While the jury is out on whether or not a sleep cycle alarm clock really works, one thing is for sure: they can help you understand what your body does during those hours when you’re off in dreamland.
The Science Of The Sleep Cycle App
While you’re dreaming about Christmas in July and endless burritos, your body passes through four stages of sleep. Every 90 minutes, you enter the deepest stage: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
In theory, a sleep cycle alarm clock tracks your sleep in order to wake you up at the best possible time. So, you won’t wake up in the middle of deep sleep, which would make you feel groggy and sad.
In practice, though, your results may vary. Sleep researchers hook your brain up to machinery in order to monitor your sleep stages. Your iPhone isn’t wired for that. To get around that technological barrier, sleep cycle apps implement different strategies to guesstimate your sleep stage. Some, like sleepyti.me, calculate your bedtime based on the idea that a good night’s sleep consists of about five REM cycles.
Here’s the tricky part: guesstimates work for some people, but for others, sleep cycles fluctuate depending on an unending list of factors. Plus, a regular night’s sleep tends to consist of brief wakes, and sleep cycles are not perfect 90-minute periods.
Not all is lost, of course. Think of a sleep cycle app as a series of ballpark estimates — the results won’t as accurate as what you can get in a lab, but understanding the way your body reacts to waking up (and falling asleep) at certain times is a huge step toward becoming a master of sleep.
Ready to find your perfect sleep cycle alarm clock? Check out the apps below. Did we miss your favorite one? Let us know in the comments below.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clocks: Our Picks
From its minimalistic layout to its nighttime-friendly color scheme, sleepyti.me is an easy way to start understanding your body’s relationship to sleep. If you enter your wake up time, the app calculates the time at which you should fall asleep. Alternately, you find out when to wake up if you go to bed now (or, you know, whenever you’re looking at the app).
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock, $0.99 iOS, $0.24 for Android
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock monitors your sleep movements using your phone’s microphone or internal accelerometer. Place your phone on your nightstand or near your pillow, and depending on your settings, it’ll either listen to your movements while you sleep (creepy) or gauge how frequently you move throughout the night (slightly less creepy) in order to decipher your sleep cycles.
Available for iOS and Android, SleepBot is a motion tracker, a sound recorder, and a smart alarm — all rolled into one user-friendly package. We love its blue light display and the ability to use soothing, ambient soundtracks to help you fall asleep. The best part, of course, is that it’s free, and you’ll be able to view your sleep data in trend graphs that stretch back up to six months.
Sleep As Android Unlock, $3.99
For Android users, Sleep As Android is available as a free trial app, but you’ll need to upgrade to the Unlocked version in order to enjoy its features long-term. For the price, you get an impressive suite of tools, including the ability to sync with Pebble, Android Wear, or Samsung Gear smartwatches, Philips Hue smart light bulbs, Google Fit, and S Health. Sleep As Android even offers CAPTCHA wake up verification, which requires you to solve a math problem or scan a QR code in order to turn off your alarm.
Sleep Better, Free
Available for iOS, Sleep Better works like other popular sleep apps: it analyzes your sleep patterns when you place it next to your bed by your pillow. But we love that the app makes it easy to enter in variables that could impact your sleep quality, such as alcohol consumption, stress levels, and exercise info. Alongside a dream diary, smart alarm, and integration with Runtastic wearables, this app is a great pick to try a full-featured sleep cycle app without committing to a purchase.
Have you ever used a sleep cycle alarm clock? Tell us about your experience in the comments!