iPhone only: Getting jolted awake by your alarm in the middle of a great dream is a drag. The Sleep Cycle app watches your slumbers and wakes you when you're lightly dozing, instead of right before you win the lottery.
Sleep Cycle uses your iPhone's accelerometer to monitor your movements during the night and determine when you're most likely in and out a dream state. Before you go to bed, set the app's alarm clock, then place your iPhone on the corner of your bed (putting it under the fitted sheet will keep it from sliding around). If you're worried about accidentally dialling someone in the middle of the night, you can put your phone in aeroplane mode — just don't lock it, or the app will turn off.
As you move around during the night, Sleep Cycle records your activity and, over the course of two or three nights, gradually learns your sleep patterns. Beginning about 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off, the app begins watching for the lightest portions of your sleep cycle and gently prods you awake with your choice of soothing preset sounds.
I've been using the Sleep Cycle for a few days and it's been pretty interesting to learn about when I'm most restless during the night. I already know I don't sleep well (or long enough), but the app is helping me figure out how to make the best of the sleep I do get. When I change variables like the time I go to bed, the temperature of the room, or the sounds I fall asleep to, Sleep Cycle is helping me pinpoint the best sleep strategies. For instance, I learned that I toss and turn far longer before sinking into a deep sleep if I read an ebook before bed instead of a dead tree version.
As for waking up in the morning, I have yet to be roused out of a dream by the app's alarm. Whether it's just a coincidence and I'm already coming out of a dream cycle when the alarm goes off, or that it does indeed sense when a good time to wake me is, I have no idea. I'm just glad to be able to avoid that dead-on-my-feet feeling that sticks with me all day when my REM cycle is interrupted.
Sleep Cycle isn't meant to be a scientific tool for people with medical sleep issues, but rather an unobtrusive way to get a little insight into your sleep patterns. Plenty of variables factor into the results it gathers, including whether you're the only one in bed and how far away from your phone you squirm during the night, but for only $1.19, Sleep Cycle seems worth picking up if you're curious about what you're doing deep into the night.
What restful sleep tips do you have for getting through the day without dragging? Talk about them in the comments.