App of the Week #1: Sleep Cycle

Welcome to a new weekly King Loaf feature, where every Sunday evening we take a look at some of the best mobile applications available. With the number of people owning app-savvy smartphones rocketing month by month, and with almost 900,000 apps currently available on the Apple and Android app stores combined (together totalling more than 28 billion downloads), it can be hard filtering the good from the mind-numbingly terrible.

So what we would like to introduce to you in our first week of app-searching is an example of one of the most useful and practical applications of Apple’s accelerometer. Sleep Cycle is, at its plainest, an alarm. If you’re like me, you hate crawling out of your cesspit in the morning because you look and feel like shit, despite the fact that you’ve got that good nine and a half hours of sleep that you promised yourself. Other days, you jump up in the morning to face the day with a smile on your face after a measly five or six hours of rest. According to Maciek Drejak, the app’s developer, Sleep Cycle aims to eliminate this unpredictability in your sleep patterns, and ultimately “wakes you in your lightest sleep phase – a natural way to wake up where you feel rested and relaxed.”

It sounds like a miracle program, but does it actually work? And if so, how? We’ve used Sleep Cycle for a total of 40 nights now, and it seems that it really has made a  difference in the way that we sleep.

By putting your iPhone (or even iPad, if you so wish) beneath your mattress cover at the corner of the bed, your device can then utilise the on-board accelerometer to detect any movements you make throughout the night. It is claimed that the feature is so sensitive, it can pick up the faintest of vibrations (even including the passing of traffic outside). How valid these claims are, we don’t know.

Once your phone’s set up and you’re off galavanting in the Land of Nod, your iPhone spends the night monitoring every one of your movements. When you snooze, you do so in phases, each phase characterised by how “asleep” you are. When you wake up in the morning from a phase of deep sleep, that’s when you feel like murdering your marmalade on toast for looking at you funny. On the other hand, waking up during one of the light phases is more likely to give you a day of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

Sleep Cycle takes the information it gathers about your night-time movements and determines in which phase of sleep you are currently in, drawing a graph of “awakeness” as you sleep. When you get to the half an hour window before your alarm time, Sleep Cycle slowly and intelligently wakes you up according to how deep asleep you are. Instead of the way that conventional alarms work by just blaring away that one time until you’re awake, Sleep Cycle offers you the opportunity to send it into sleep mode by knocking on the back of the phone. Then, it recalculates when to attempt to wake you up again before your alarm time, often leaving you with four or five alarms going off in a half an hour period, allowing you to wake up gradually and steadily, until by the final alarm you’re feeling much more awake and ready to go than you would have done with the one alarm.

Complex as its inner workings are, Sleep Cycle has a markedly simple influence on your life; it allows you to wake up feeling fresh and awake, just like you should, much more often. For this writer at least, the statistics that the app provides (length of last sleep, average sleeping time, etc) give an easy way of improving sleeping behaviour. Now I know how little (or how much) I sleep, and I know what I can do to live a healthier lifestyle. Moreover, having my iPhone beneath my mattress cover and practically unusable until the morning (Sleep Cycle works even if you’ve got auto-lock features enabled like me) stops me from picking it up for a quick game of GTA III and inadvertently staying awake until good ol’ Stupid O’Clock. You only need to read one of the 13,000 reviews on iTunes that profess of how “strangely and unbelievably, it works!”, to realise the usefulness of this mobile application. Biological alarm clocks would ordinarily set you back around £200, but this piece of customisable software accomplishes the same goal for less than the price of a chocolate bar. 

Sleep Cycle
Price: £0.69 (as of 01/01/12)
Available for: iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads running iOS 3.0 or later
Category: Health and Fitness
Size: 6.7 MB 

Sam Hardy

Sam Hardy is a writer for KingLoaf and music journalism site AltSounds.

  • Looks like quite a cool app. Be interesting to see how much sleep you actually get per night.

    • Yeah man, it’s great. Apart from when you’ve had about five hours, the last thing you wanna see in the morning is how useless you are haha.

      • That is true! I slept like 10 hours last night but it screwed me over, feel bolloxed today.

  • Sounds sick. Might give this badger a go.

    • Indeed, however I’m assuming yours will be tragic Chris as you get about 3 hours a night or something ridiculous.

      • Well from what I have learned, much like this is supposed to show it is more about cycles than anything else. Get that right and you can get away with minimal sleep.