Track Your Sleep with the Sleep Cycle App

Knowing how well you actually sleep is critical to sleeping better. That’s where the Sleep Cycle app comes in. It will tell you exactly when you went to bed, fell asleep, and woke up. It also measures the quality of your sleep by tracking your movement through the night, which Sleep Cycle says shows the phase of your sleep and whether you are properly cycling between the four phases of sleep. Sleep cycle uses a principle called actigraphy, or measuring motion during sleep, to determine your sleep stage. There is a debate about whether movement during the night is really correlated with sleep quality, and therefore whether the feedback the app gives you is correct, but there should be no debate on whether the app can help you get better sleep. Here’s why it’s great:

The biggest advantage to using it every night is that you’ll know exactly how much sleep you got. Having the data in front of you shows ever-so-clearly how six hours of sleep feels compared to eight hours. Our perceptions of our sleep and our wellbeing are very subjective, so the data makes a big difference. Having the numbers in front of you makes it clear how you feel when you have enough sleep (or too little) and makes it clear whether you need to change your lifestyle.

The second big advantage is the app has a simple tracker that allows you to enter in lifestyle data, which it then correlates to your sleep quality. For example, you can create a field called “Drank five cups of coffee” or “Had a nightcap” or “Had two tablespoons of almond butter before bed.” Each morning after you wake up, you enter the data into the app and it will correlate these data points with your sleep quality. Hint: the almond butter is the only one that will help you sleep.

The correlation won’t be exact, and the app’s ratings of your sleep quality is not nearly as accurate as a sleep study conducted by a doctor, but that doesn’t matter. The simple act of tracking your sleep can make a big difference. Take a look at this article by MyMorningRoutine.com creator Michael Xander. He went from an average of less than six hours of sleep to almost eight hours of sleep using the app – the graph is powerful.

Tips:

Here’s how to get the most out of the app:

  • Place your phone in airplane mode so you’re not baking your head with cell phone signals – this also means you won’t be woken up by texts or calendar alerts
  • Choose a few data points that you think might affect your sleep and track them in the app: Have a cocktail or two in the evening? Eat dinner late? Drink coffee after 2pm? Make a field for each one that might affect you and keep an eye on it for a few weeks.

Here’s how to use the app to find out which changes really help you sleep better:

Use the Sleep Cycle app to track your sleep and know what really helps you sleep better

After the first night’s sleep: Click the pencil symbol at the top right of the screen.

 

Use the Sleep Cycle app to track your sleep and know what really helps you sleep better

Click Edit sleep notes

 

Track your sleep with the sleep cycle app to see if your changes are making your sleep better or worse.
Tap edit at the top right of the screen to make changes to the menu.

Use the Sleep Cycle app to track your sleep and know what really helps you sleep better

Tap the green plus symbol to add a new category.

Use the Sleep Cycle app to track changes you make to help you sleep better

Type in a new category for a change you want to track – could be something “Sleep with ear plugs”, “Melatonin”, “Rode bike to work”

Use the Sleep Cycle app to track your sleep and know what really helps you sleep better

Place a check mark next to the items that apply to your sleep the night before.

After the minimum of five nights, the Sleep Cycle app will start giving you information based on your history. It will tell you which items from your sleep notes are helping (or hurting) your sleep – just look at the trends section. Good luck and good night!

Make A Change

Give the Sleep Cycle App a try for at least two weeks. Use the custom fields to track one or two of the other changes you’re making, whether it’s drinking less caffeine, no alcohol before bed, Yoga, or something else. Knowing how well you’re truly sleeping will make a huge difference!

 

 

References and Additional Resources

http://www.journalsleep.org/Articles/270122.pdf – Sleep trackers like Sleep Cycle aren’t perfect, but they offer some useful data
http://www.aasmnet.org/Resources/PracticeReviews/cpr_Actigraphy.pdf – Measuring movement during sleep offers a lot of insight
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/technology/personaltech/turning-to-your-phone-for-a-better-nights-sleep.html?_r=0 – Good review of the app and the idea behind it

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