Published on November 1st, 2005 | by Greg0
Sleeptracker: Less Sleep, Less Sleepy
Quite a claim: a watch that will allow you to both sleep less, and let you feel less sleepy. But the Sleeptracker has some technology to back up it’s claims, and enough positive reviews to make us curious. So we strapped on a Sleeptracker, only slightly larger and bulkier than a normal wrist watch, for a few nights to test out whether their claims had merit.
First, we give them a B+ for design- the screen is nice and large, the backlight works well, and the buttons are both big enough to be useful without being easy to accidentally hit. The watch itself is easy enough to program- you enter the current time and date, the time you want to wake up, then the earliest point you’d be willing to wake up if the watch detects you are ready. Finally, you enter the time you’re going to sleep, so it knows when to start tracking.
So, what does it track? Well, supposedly the watch is examining your sleep patterns- primarily your sleep stages (REM, for example, is stage 5) but also how much you move (using an accelerometer). The tracking allows the watch to detect when you are nearing an awake stage, allowing it to set off the alarm earlier than absolutely necessary. In theory, this means that you will wake up feeling more rested, as you aren’t woken abruptly in the middle of a deeper stage of sleep.
In practice, we found that it kind of works. The watch did indeed seem to detect when we were nearing wakefulness, and set off the alarm (three days out of five). The downside to this is that we were nearing wakefulness anyway, naturally, as the sun rose. Perhaps those with quirky circadian rhythms, who are jet-lagged, or who dwell in darkness might find this function to be more useful. For us, it simply cost us a few minutes of sleep once, woke us up right on time once, and once probably helped us from feeling groggy in the morning.
All of this would be fine, but for two downsides of the Sleeptracker. First, the price is steep: $149! Second, the book describes how you can read the data that is stored in the watch, to figure out how you slept, whether you were disturbed, and to figure out when you were in various sleep patterns. Which would be quite useful, except for the near impossibility of translating the data- there is no way to transfer the information to a computer or PDA or show a graph or chart, leaving you to decipher screen after screen of times and data points.
Bottom line: if you often wake up feeling bad in the mornings, the Sleeptracker is definitely worth a try. For everyone else, the cost and lack of data transfer capabilities make it an interesting, but not-yet-developed technology.