Do You Have Sleep Problems?

10 Dec, 2011 || by

As a Clinical Psychologist, a major area of focus during the initial interview with a new patient is that of sleep…quality, quantity, & changes over time. Good sleep is a prerequisite for mental wellness, physical health, & harmonious relationships. Discovery and correction of sleep problems can be immensely helpful in helping someone feel better quickly.  The “discovery” of problems in this area, however, can be tricky since people are not the best monitors of their own sleep patterns. While they may be able to tell me the approximate number of hours they sleep on average, and provide general comments on the quality of their sleep, such as, “I sleep ok, I guess” or “My sleep is horrible!,” it’s been my experience that self-report on sleep quality is not very reliable.

Thus we come to the topic of this week’s review, the Sleep Cycle app. I’ve used this app myself for quite some time as well as have had many of my patients download and use it in order to provide me with a more objective measure of their sleep quality.  Without going into too much detail (I’ll leave that to Trey, the tech expert), Sleep Cycle makes use of the iPhone accelerometer to measure motion during sleep.  How does it do this, you ask?  By placing your iPhone under your bottom sheet, close to your head.  Basically, the more you move during sleep, the lighter you’re sleeping. The less you move, the deeper…and more restorative…is your sleep.  Professional sleep study centers commonly use a technique called “actigraphy” to assess sleep quality. Actigraphy involves wearing some type of motion-sensing device to record the subject’s movement during sleep. Sleep Cycle uses this same technique…using the iPhone.  Sleep Cycle records your movement throughout the night and provides you with a cool, useful graph of the amount of time you spent awake, asleep, and in deeper sleep.

The Sleep Cycle app can also be used as a sort of “smart alarm clock,” that will awaken you close to the time you want, but when you are in a lighter stage of sleep (more movement).  The idea here is that it is much easier to awaken feeling refreshed when we’re in one of our lighter stages of sleep. We’ve all had that experience of being roused from sleep by an alarm when we’re in one of those deep sleep stages.  We grudgingly awaken feeling disoriented, irritable, and still sleepy! Sleep Cycle rectifies this problem by awaking you during a period of more active movement close to the time you wish to awaken.

All in all, I found the Sleep Cycle app a winner for ease of use and for the quality of information it provides regarding your sleep quality.  Definitely worth the .99 cent investment.  The only thing I would add to the information provided would be some type of “Sleep Score,” like a 0-100 rating where 100 would equate to a great night’s sleep.

For anyone wanting to learn what to DO with the information you learn from Sleep Cycle, as well as how to get a great night’s sleep and awaken feeling refreshed, I’ve written a useful “How-to” guide on this which can be found at

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One Response to “Do You Have Sleep Problems?”

  1. I love the idea of a “smart alarm” and I’m wondering if you really can feel a difference in how you feel upon waking if you use it. Nice review! Thanks. I also like how you talked about the “How -to” part in your Perfect Nights Sleep article. Well done!

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