by Tony Rushin
Did you ever set a goal to get enough/more/better sleep? Perhaps it wasn’t a goal but just a dream (sorry – I couldn’t resist). Ever notice that some mornings, when the alarm goes off, you wake feeling refreshed and other mornings you feel lethargic & grumpy – even if you got a lot of sleep? What’s up with that?
Every January, in our Vistage group, we share our annual goals with each other. I always look forward to this session: it pushes me to clarify and quantify my short-list of most important goals. Larry Hart, our group chair, encourages us to ask each other questions like: “Is that a result or an activity?” (good goals are results); “For what purpose?”; “How will you be different at the end of the year?”; “Is that realistic?”; and “How will you measure that?”.
I declared that one of my goals was to get 7.5 hours of sleep each night. Monikah Ogando was in my small group and asked: “Is it realistic to get 7.5 hours of sleep every night? (no); “Is sleep quantity your goal or is it quality?” (hmm… I never thought of it that way – I guess it’s mostly quality with some quantity needed); “How are you going to measure it to hold yourself accountable?” (I was just going to wing it – that’s effective, isn’t it?); “Do you know about the Sleep Cycle app?” (no!). Monikah proceeded to demo the app for me after which I downloaded it (for the whopping sum of $0.99) and have used it ever since.
At its core, Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock that wakes you at the optimum time so you’ll feel most refreshed. It uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to monitor your movements to determine which phase of sleep you’re in and then wakes you up when you’re in the lightest sleep phase (you control the window of time when it’s allowed to wake you – the default range is 30 minutes). This is the most natural way to wake up and helps you feel more rested and relaxed. Contrast this with a traditional alarm clock: if it happens to wake you when you’re in a deep sleep, you’ll have trouble waking up and most likely feel lethargic all day – no matter how many hours of sleep you got that night.
In addition, Sleep Cycle shows you a graph of each night’s sleep pattern. Here’s my graph from last Thursday night – the last night of Snowjam Part 2. You can see I got into deep sleep real quickly (I’ve always been grateful that I can fall asleep quickly). I also made it into deep sleep again around 2:30. The app woke me at 3:59 to a soothing sound (there are 17 to choose from or you can pull from your own playlist). Note: the wake-up range I had set for Friday morning was 3:50 – 4:20 (I wanted to get up early to get my morning workout before going to the office).
I also have Sleep Notes and Wake Up Mood enabled. Sleep Notes lets me note the activities of my choice (fully customizable) so I can see if there’s a correlation between some of my activities and the quality of my sleep. Notice I had 1 drink before going to bed (a glass of Russell’s Reserve bourbon). For Wake Up Mood I can choose one of three emoticons when I awaken: happy, neutral or grumpy. Since waking up with Sleep Cycle all of my morning moods have been either happy or neutral (reminds of the corny joke of the man’s reply when asked if he wakes up grumpy in the morning: “No. I let her sleep.”).
Sleep Cycle also tracks history and shows numerous graphs and statistics. These help me track my results against my goal – so I can hold myself accountable. They also help me correlate activities to sleep quality. There are graphs that Sleep Notes correlate to overall sleep quality, sleep quality per day of week, time spent in bed (also by day of week) and others. Shown here is a graph depicting sleep quality over a 10-night period. You can even measure your heart rate every morning when you wake up (using the same technology I wrote about in my 2012 tip: How’s Your Heart Health?).
Where do I put the phone? How does the app know when I fall asleep?
These are two of the questions I most frequently get asked. The best way to answer them is to take you through my bedtime routine:
1) Plug my phone into the charger next to my nightstand (the app strongly recommends that you plug the phone in; it uses about 30% of the battery life)
2) Pick the time I want to wake up
3) Choose my sleep notes (this is an optional feature)
This last step is how the magic happens. The accelerometer in the phone is very sensitive. And, since we move differently in each phase of sleep,
5) Put my phone face down under the sheet.
The app is able to correlate which phase we’re in (awake, REM, deep sleep) based on our movements. If we toss and turn before falling asleep, the app knows we’re still awake. It’s like magic to me but from everything I’ve read and experienced, it’s highly accurate and it works! If you have more questions, there’s a good FAQ on the Sleep Cycle website.
If you’re a busy professional, such as an attorney, wouldn’t it be best to feel most rested every day? Feeling rested and relaxed is especially important on the day of the big: trial, deposition, filing, client meeting, fill-in-the-blank. Try Sleep Cycle; it could give you that slight edge that makes all the difference.