If you look at any study over the past few decades, seemingly all of them point to a common problem for Americans and indeed, most of the world. We, as humans, are simply not getting enough sleep. Adequate sleep not only refreshes your body, but has been found to have significant impact on your mental health and happiness, your ability to problem solve, and your overall health. Scientists tell us that, on average, we each need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
But having sleep time is one thing. The quality of that sleep and the trends around how you sleep are something else. Insights into the quality and trends of your sleep can help you find that perfect time to get to bed each night, get up each morning and how everything from the environment to your lifestyle habits impact your sleep. That is where Sleep Cycle from Swedish development house Northcube AB comes into your life.
Sleep Cycle is an app that uses your Apple Watch and your iPhone to listen to you sleep, track your movements, and uses data you input to help you discover your sleeping trends. Within just a few weeks of using the app, you will be able to see trends that impact your sleep negatively (like eating a late dinner for example) or those that impact it positively (like going to the gym or a full moon). All this data, which is stored locally on your iPhone, is then used to give you trending charts and information. It also ties in with Apple Health.
I’ve been using Sleep Cycle for just over a month and it is a solid app for those who want to track their sleeping habits and trends. While it isn’t perfect, it is solid and well worth the monthly subscription fee in my view.
At heart, Sleep Cycle is a very advanced alarm clock. When you first open up the app, you are presented with an alarm clock that you set to when you want to wake up in the morning. The app can be setup to either sound your alarm at the time set or to wake you up at the optimal time in your sleep cycle. By default, this is a window of 30 minutes prior to your alarm but can be adjusted or turned off complete.
Once you have your alarm set, you can either press the Start button on your iPhone or the Start button in the Sleep Cycle app on your Apple Watch. Once it starts, there are a few things that happen. First, the app uses the microphone on your iPhone to listen to you sleep. The app instructs you to place your iPhone with the bottom of it facing you next to your head on your nightstand. This picks up things like bed movements (tossing and turning) as well as snoring. The app does a fantastic job of filtering out what is not you. In other words, if you are sleeping with your partner, it will only focus on the noises nearest to your iPhone – i.e., you. Now it will pick up a pet if that pet happens to walk between you and your iPhone (I have a cat so walking on my pillow happens nightly).
Second, the screen on your iPhone (or on your Apple Watch) dims so it is not to disturb you while you sleep. In fact, on your Apple Watch, the time of your alarm stays dimly lit.
Once your sleeping is done and your alarm has gone off (or you have cancelled it by turning it off on the app or your Apple Watch), you are prompted to indicate your mood. This helps Sleep Cycle track trends versus the mood in which you wake up. Once you do this, you are then shown a detailed statistics page for the sleeping you just completed. This report will give you information like your sleep quality, how many minutes you were snoring during the night, your total time in bed, weather information, and how much activity you had the previous day. Some of these tidbits of information only come with a premium account for Sleep Cycle which I will cover later in the review.
Sleep Cycle takes all of this data and analyses it to help product the next section of the app, Trends. All that data stays local to your iPhone unless you opt to back it up with a Premium account. Trends are exactly what you would expect. It gives you your sleeping trends and can be configured to look at days, weeks, or months. Here you will see a wide range of charges all on a single page along with your average associated with that metric. For example, there is a chart that shows you when you went to bed. Below the chart, you will see your average, the United States average, the earliest average time to bed around the world and the latest average time around the world.
Some of the charts you will see in the Trends section of Sleep Cycle include:
- Sleep Quality
- Time you went to bed
- Time in bed
- Time you woke up
- How much you snore
- Things that increase your sleep quality
While I am a big fan of Sleep Cycle, there are some things I would like to see improved. If you forget to start the app when you go to bed, you miss out on that day. There is no way to add a sleep amount, even if it a guesstimate on your part, to the app. Also, there is no way to edit a sleep entry.
That said, I still recommend the app if you are looking for a way to track the amount and quality of your sleep. It does a solid job and gives you great insights into your sleeping patterns and, hopefully, what behaviors you need to use to improve your sleep quality.
Like other apps from Northcube, Sleep Cycle is free and is solid with a Premium add-on. That add-on gives you a lot of extra benefits such as being able to add sleep notes, provides a sleep aid (white noise to help you go to sleep), recording of weather information, your heart rate, and even the ability to integrate and control your Philips Hue lighting. That premium account is $4.99 per month or you can lump pay $29.99 (that’s $2.45 per month) for a year. Personally, I think it is worth it but as I put in my review for Life Cycle, another Northcube app, I’m a stats geek and like to have this kind of personalized data. Either way, you can try Sleep Cycle for a month for free.
To get started, download the app from the App Store.