Have you ever woken to your bed clock alarm from an incredibly deep sleep? When it happens it can take some time for the body to completely wake up. I’ve found myself at work, an hour or so later, still feeling groggy after a moment like that, and I’m really not that productive. Normally your body gets into a routine, and prepares itself for your waking time. For travelers and people on a varying schedules this can be impossible. So being able to coincide the time you wake with a moment when your in a light stage of sleep, or almost awake, can save time and improve performance in the early part of the day.
That’s where Sleeptracker comes in handy. Sleeptracker is a watch that monitors the wearer’s sleep, and will wake them when they are almost awake, rather than at a given time. Wearing the watch and having it sound an alarm in one of these moments is close to surreal, almost spooky. The principle however is very scientific.
Lee Loree a Partner at Sleeptracker explains, “Sleeptracker monitors and records brief periods of movement, by way of a small accelerometer, that are indicative of light stages of sleep”. The wearer sets the alarm and provides an alarm window of anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes before. It is during this period that the watch will monitor for an almost awake moment and sound the alarm. If no almost awake moment is recorded it will sound the alarm at the alarm time that has been set.
I spent a week wearing the watch to see how successful it was. Initially it had trouble keeping up with my fifteen month old daughter, who’d wake me earlier than the set window, and not at a particularly good time. Once she settled down the watch found it’s rhythm, and then annoyed my wife with it’s alarm and me fumbling for the quiet button.
It really was amazing to be woken when you knew that your body was ready. It was like the watch was reading my mind. It also records all almost awake moments through the night, so you can get an idea of how restful your sleep is. “What you want to look for is long periods, more than 30 minutes, at any time during sleep where no moments are recorded. That shows you are getting some good sound sleep”, Loree explained. Once a base pattern is established by the user, it’s easy to see which nights have been the most sound. I’m guessing that on their horizon they’ll introduce a new watch that will integrate with software for a PC to graph sleep patterns.
Setup was incredibly easy. After setting the time and date, a process that is straight forward like all watches, you follow a few simple steps to set the time, alarm, a sleep window, and a “go to bed” setting and your away. Set and forget, unless you change your routine, but then the user interface is so straight forward it’s not a chore at all. Four buttons, and three settings.
As a watch I found it nice and comfortable to wear. Which is what you’d expect given it’s something you need to wear all night. Similar to sport watches it has all the contours in the right place, nice and rubbery with no sharp pointy ends to dig into your head when you lay on it in bed. In fact, aesthetically it’s a very basic watch, nothing fancy and reminds me of other functional watches like a Polar heart rate monitor. The backlight was also nice and bright and the display very easy to read.
Occasionally I caught the Mode button as I tried to find a comfortable sleep position early in the night, and the watched beeped. It might pay for Sleeptracker to modify how this operates, either allowing the user to deactivate the sound as a default setting, or adjust how or where the buttons work.
The only tricky part for me was timing the moment I went to sleep. It requires this time set in the watch, so that it can record sleep data through the night. Without this setting it would be recording the data every eight minutes while you’re awake, and the data would then be useless. It’s not compulsory, and will still wake you at the optimum time, but I wanted to test all the features. My bed time varies, as I’m often up late checking out the latest gadget news or recording a podcast, and when I do go to bed it can take me a while to fall asleep. My work around was to set the time with enough notice for me to fall asleep. I can’t see where they could improve this, and just happens to be a feature in the way I work.
Checking the data in the morning was enlightening. I’m a light sleeper, and at least the period that I used it, it showed that I was all-most awake an awful lot during in the night. I’m sure most of this has to do with me being the father of a young daughter, but still it was interesting to note which nights were more restful than others.
I’d suggest that the watch isn’t needed by everyone. Busy executives or people changing when they go to bed and when they wake will get the most from it. If there are other factors that wake you, like crying babies, then there is little you can do to manage the time you get up.
All in all, the watch operates exactly as advertised. If you’re looking for gaining the extra edge that waking at the optimum moment will give you, then this watch will assist. It does find the right moment when you are almost awake, and could be very useful in tracking sleep habits if the user is willing to collect the data it records in something like a spreadsheet. It’s not a fancy design, but is very comfortable to wear, and functional as a watch, including the water-resistance to 20 meters. $US149 is a small price to pay if you find yourself waking often and needing to warm up to the day because your schedule doesn’t allow you to wake at a regular time.