Tuesday, March 05, 2013

App Review: Sleep Time (iOS)

Updated, 6:55 am - fixed name and added links to iTunes to download free or paid version of app.  One more note to add to comments later about snooze.  

Sleep Time is a pretty slick app.  I was so impressed with the free version that I bought the 99 cent paid version just to encourage the app's developers.  (The screenshots are from the free version.)

Sleep Time is an alarm clock designed to wake you up in a very refreshed manner.

You specify the range (10-30 minutes) and then you set the *latest* you want the app to wake you up.  It may wake you up sooner.  Press the green music note if you'd like it to play a soundscape for 45 minutes to help you fall asleep.

Press the "Start" button and place the phone face-down on your bed near your head.  At any time during the night, pick up the phone to view the time.

When the alarm sounds in the morning, pick up the phone.  Hold the "Press to stop" button for several seconds to silence the alarm.  If you don't, it goes into snooze mode for 9 minutes.  If it sounds again, you'll get an 8 minute snooze.  (Each additional snooze is a minute less.)

The app uses some kind of magic to track your sleep.  It seems to work rather well.  I just leave it plugged in  near my pillow.  Sometimes it suggests I'm awake when I don't think I am, but I wonder if my wife's movements occasionally get caught.  Anyhow, so this is where the range comes in for waking up - by tracking your sleep cycles, it will attempt to rouse you when you're in the lightest sleep it thinks you're going to get.  Over time, you can track average bedtime, how long you slept and your overall efficiency -- which is the time you were not awake.  My best so far is 91%.

The free version's limitations:

* Only a single alarm (though it's my favorite of all of the offerings)

* Only a single soundscape (there are three more in the paid version plus the ability to select a playlist of music; I've only just now start using the soundscapes.)

* Only tracks the past five days (when I upgraded to the paid app - a new download, not an in-app upgrade - I had hoped it would bring over all of my recorded history from the free app, but despite my syncing to the cloud, it did not)

Other notes

* It has to be facedown on your bed.  You can flip it up to look at the time, but you can't leave it face-up to use as a clock.  (This is fine with me, when I wake in the middle of the night, I do not want to know what time it is, I'm more interested in just going back to sleep.  If I know the time, I'll start stressing about how little time there is left for me to sleep.  The app will tell you how many hours and minutes until the alarm goes off if you do look at it.  The inability to see a clock without doing anything was a deal-breaker for a friend who was intrigued by it.)

* It has to be running in the foreground.  You can't press the home or power button.  It will darken the screen but you can't run other apps (like a separate clock) while it's running and you will want to make sure you have a long enough cord that will allow it to be plugged in while it's on your mattress.

* The best place for it is right near your head, according to the instructions.  On our queen sized bed, our pillows stretch almost the full width of the bed, so there's very little space for me to put the phone.  I knock it down every few nights and then have to grope around in the dark to find it.  It seems to be smart enough to ignore that kind of jostling.

* That little banner with the red plus is very subtle advertising.  If you never click it, you'd never know there was any advertising, so it's not a big deal.

* It takes a long time to start up the app.

* There was a morning recently where the overall volume was too low on my phone and I slept right through the alarm.  I had also taken some melatonin in the middle of the night, which I don't normally do.  It will get progressively louder, but only so long as your phone is at a decent volume.

* Speaking of volume, it takes some work to find the perfect volume that keeps the soundscapes from being too loud at night and yet has the alarm loud enough in the morning.  (Would love a separate volume control on the soundscapes.)

In Summary

This is a pretty slick app.  It's replaced my previous alarm clock (the iPhone's built-in clock app) and I wake up far more refreshed.  I'm also excited to see if I beat my "high score" which currently stands at 91% effectiveness for sleep.  It will also help me to get to bed earlier and sleep longer because I want to improve my averages.

Sleep Time (iTunes, free)

Sleep Time+ (iTunes, 99 cents)

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