By Mike Wheeler
I’ve been hanging out for a piece of tech like this, not least because my sleeping patterns are atrocious. I’m very much a late night/sleep in kind of guy, but when you have early wake ups during the week, as well as two sons who usually kick-off their sports at 8.30 on a Saturday (the elder) and 8am on a Sunday (the younger), the chances of getting that sleep in are pretty remote. I’m probably one of the few people who welcome a torrential downpour on a Friday or Saturday night, which presents an opportunity of not awaking from my slumber until mid-morning.
But why the semi insomnia? Like many parents it went haywire when child number one was born and has never been the same since. My sleep patterns are not so much erratic but very hard to gauge. Come five o’clock in the afternoon I’m feeling pretty knackered, but the walk home seems to perk me up which usually sees me not hitting the hay until 11-12ish. But I wake up at least once if not twice a night and would love to get through one night with a solid seven or either hours. Up steps Gear4's Renew SleepClock to tell me what’s really going on.
Let’s get one thing straight – the device does not claim in any way, shape or form to fix your sleeping patterns. What it does promise is to monitor what you’re doing when the lights go out.
You need three things to make it work. The SleepClock device itself, an Apple-enabled device (iPod/iPad/iPhone) and the Renew SleepClock app, which you download from the app store.
Gear4’s literature on the subject says that it uses expertise developed by ResMed, which specialises in sleep monitoring technology. So how does it work? After downloading the app, you plug in the SleepClock and put your Apple device in the cradle. The devices will sync together and you don’t have to worry about setting the time on the sleepclock because it will automatically display the time that is on your Apple device.
Once the app is launched it gives you a bevy of settings to consider so the device works. It will give you the optimum time you want waking up, and will automatically set the clock to go off between either a set time or a window time frame that suits, which is usually set at 30 minutes. Gear4 says that the time frame option is because within that 30 minute window you will be either in a shallow sleep or deep sleep. It will wake you when you are in the shallow sleep phase.
You can also set the alarm to wake you up with the radio feature, or there is a set of preset sounds such as birds twittering, rain falling, or water running over a brook plus a few more.
When you are asleep two sensors measure your breathing and movement during the night. This data is then sent to you Apple device and a set of algorithms, which in turn, gauge how you are sleeping. It also give out information such as how long it took you to get to sleep, as well as being able to compare different nights and the varying sleep patterns.
After putting in the settings I then got it going to see how it worked. On the first morning I woke up and found that I had slept for just over five hours, which was a surprise. I had managed just 14 minutes of deep sleep, the rest being light sleep, with more than a few interruptions. The amount of deep sleep was a concern because this is the type that doctors say your body needs to get fully rested and recuperated. It was also surprised to see how many interruptions I had, because I didn’t remember waking up at all.
The next night was a little better, with a lot less interruptions, and about 18 minutes of deep sleep. I also enjoyed waking up to the sounds of rain as opposed to the Klaxton-like blaring that is my usual fare with my old alarm. However, in saying that, I did find it really easy to hit the ‘snooze’ button on more than one occasion with this more sedate option of waking up.
Gear4 say that the SleepClock solve three problems:
- The right time to wake you up.
- The tracking of your sleep.
- There is no need to wear peripherals – wrist bands and headbands – in order to make the device work.
But I do have one question: if the device is supposed to look at your sleep patterns, and you find that you are not getting enough shut eye, then what? I guess you could try and go to bed earlier, or look at other factors to try and make your sleep patters better, but it doesn’t offer up any solutions in that regard. That doesn’t mean I didn’t find the information I uncovered interesting. I did. However, I also wanted a solution because at the end of the day, a device that tells you that you have crappy sleeping patterns is good in itself – in the short term, but in the long term you need a solution.
Overall I found it an interesting device and as a stand-alone alarm-clock radio it does a pretty good job anyway, albeit a tad more expensive than your average wake up call.
Pros: Good way to measure sleep, easy set up, tonnes of information
Cons: Could offer up some solutions if you have sleeping problems
4.1 Shacks Out of 5