This review has been a struggle to write. Not because of a problem with the product so much, but because of my irregular sleep patterns and my less than regular schedule. Let me start by giving you an overview of how my typical day goes…never mind, I have no typical days.
Instead of a routine of “up at 7 and to bed by 11″, I go to bed anywhere from 10pm to 4am – depending upon whether I need to get up early the next morning, or whether I am using the quiet late hours to work on a particular review. I might get up at 6:30am when I have an early appointment, or I may sleep in until 1pm if I don’t have to be anywhere until later in the day. This is, of course, when I am not suffering from insomnia. On those nights, it isn’t unheard of for me to stay up all night, all of the following day, and then I’ll crash early the following night.
It took a while for me to accept that what was normal for me wasn’t necessarily normal for others, and it has taken me even longer to acclimate those close to me to my weird sleep habits. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t days – even weeks – where I need to keep a somewhat “normal” schedule, getting to bed at a decent time – and even harder, getting up at a set time.
On some of these days where I might sleep for a solid 8 hours, but when the alarm clock goes off I’ll wake up groggy, feeling unrested and as if I was only asleep for a few moments. Then there are other days where I might only catch a few hours sleep, but I’ll be wide awake when the alarm clock goes off – able to leave my bed refreshed and ready for whatever.
I have never paid much attention to the science of sleep, so other than knowing that REM was a band, and that the acronym stood for “Rapid Eye Movement“, and that this was a sleep stage mentioned in the book Firestarter…well, you get the idea. I was pretty ignorant about sleep stages.
So here is theexplaining how the process works:
When you sleep, your body goes through a series of sleep cycles. The average adult experiences 4-5 full sleep cycles over an 8-hour period. Each cycle lasts about 90-110 minutes and comprises five different stages, as illustrated by this chart.
No two people have the same sleep cycles, and nobody has the same cycle twice. Many factors can influence sleep cycles, including diet, exercise, medications, drugs or alcohol, stress, sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation. Age and gender can play a role, too: women tend to sleep more soundly than men, and as we age, we sleep more restlessly.
A typical sleep cycle has five stages and takes 90-110 minutes. During Stage 1 of your sleep cycle, you sleep lightly. At Stage 2, your sleep gets progressively deeper. At Stages 3 and 4, also known as “Delta Sleep,” you sleep most heavily; this is when your body rebuilds itself.
Stage 5 of sleep, also known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is marked by extensive physiological changes, such as accelerated respiration, increased brain activity, rapid eye movement, and muscle relaxation. People dream during REM sleep.
In the first third of the night, Delta sleep stages last longer than REM stages. As the night progresses, Delta sleep diminishes in length. By the last third of the night, Delta sleep usually ceases, while REM stages lengthen.
Why are these sleep stages relevant? Because the Sleeptracker claims that it can pinpoint the optimal times to awaken its wearer when they are sleeping, so that the wearer will “wake up refreshed instead of groggy.” Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to review the Sleeptracker Pro when I was offered the chance.
It wasn’t long before I had my kit, and I was ready to see if the Sleeptracker could help me.
Sleeptracker Pro Features:
- Time & Date
- GLO Backlight
- Monitors Sleep for “Almost Awake” Moments
- 90 Minute Max. Adjustable Alarm Window
- 12 Hours Sleep Data Collection
- Vibrating Alarm, Ringing Alarm, or Both
- Download Sleep Data to PC
- Review Sleep History with included Software
Included in the box are the Sleeptracker Pro watch, a custom USB cable with alligator clip end, an instruction manual, and a software / driver CD. Let’s talk about the hardware portion first, and then we can jump into how it performed…
The Sleeptracker Pro is a water-resistant stainless steel watch with a wide rubber band. While I think it is much better looking than the, make no mistake about it – the watch is big and it is a bit clunky. The watch case measures 1.7″ wide x 1.9″ tall x 0.56″ thick. It has a retro vibe going on, it reminds me of the LCD watches in the early 80s…without the red glow.
Notice on the back that there are three indentions in a row; this is the area where the custom USB cable with three-toothed alligator clip will attach for data download. The battery door covers a standard CR2032, which Sleeptracker estimates should last approximately a year, depending upon how often the Glow (backlight) button is pressed.
On the left side of the Sleeptracker, there are two buttons: Glow and Down. Glow obviously triggers the blue backlight, and it also functions as an Up button when programming and as a Snooze button when the alarm has activated. Down is used for programming, and it will turn off an alarm when pressed and held.
On the right side are the Set and Mode buttons. Pressing Mode allows you to toggle through the various screens, pressing Set allows the user to set alarms, the time, the date…all of that good stuff.
And here is the watch on my wrist. You’ll note the generous bit of extra strappage on the left side. I have a 5.75″ wrist, and the Sleeptracker is on it’s last hole; it should fit up to a 9″ wrist. It is mentioned that the device may be worn during the day as a wrist watch, but I thought it was a bit too large (and okay…ugly) for that.
Here’s the thing: I wear a watch every day, but I am in the habit of always removing it when I go to bed. Part of this is because I hadsurgery in 1999, and ever since then I have been able to read my bedside clock. Yeah, I was that blind. Before I had the surgery, I had to either wear a watch to bed or keep my glasses right next to me – I opted to wear a watch. Once that was no longer necessary, I reveled in my newfound freedom and quit wearing one. I was surprised at how hard it was to go back to wearing a watch to bed, and I was also surprised at how worried I was that I would unintentionally whack myself while wearing it. Incidentally, that has never happened.
Here is the face of the watch, showing the time. The wave icon in the upper right indicates that the watch is set to vibrate, and the audible alarm icon is to the right of the time. As you have probably figured out, the watch can be set to use either or both type alarms – whichever the wearer finds most effective.
This is the screen where you set the time for the alarm to go off. The way this works is that you will pick the time you need to wake up…
…and then you will set a window in which you can be awakened at the optimal time.
This screen is where you set your time to bed. I know that you are probably thinking that my five hour sleep goal was less than the optimal 8 hours we should all get each night, and you are 100% correct. Welcome to my world.
This is the Data A screen, which displays the Data Average, or “the average time-period between your almost-awake moments.”
Here’s a shot of the blue GLO light.
So that’s the hardware, let’s talk about the experience.
According to the Sleeptracker site, this is how the device works:
SLEEPTRACKER® continuously monitors signals from your body that indicate whether you are asleep or awake. Because you wear SLEEPTRACKER® on your wrist like a watch, its internal sensors can detect even the most subtle physical signals from your body. SLEEPTRACKER® finds your best waking moments, so that waking up has never been easier.
SLEEPTRACKER® may find multiple almost-awake moments within the sleep cycle. Almost-awake moments may also vary in frequency throughout the night.
The Sleeptracker will monitor “your sleep cycles for optimal waking moments during the preset ALARM WINDOW.” The device will find “those almost awake-moments and gently wake you when you’re most alert. The result? You wake up refreshed instead of groggy.”
Sounds great, right?
So here is how it went for me: Nights when I was actually able to predict and set the time I would get to bed, the watch would wake me up the following morning around the set alarm time, and I did feel like these were times when I was more or less “ready” to awaken. Nights when I got at least 8 hours sleep were obviously the most restful.
The only problem was that there were many nights where I would set the watch’s “to bed” time for Midnight or 1am, but would then actually get in bed much later. I wish the watch had an alarm feature for time to go to bed, as well as a wake up time; I think it would have helped me.
Since I am generally not a very heavy sleeper, the combination of light beeping alarm and gentle vibrations were enough to wake me – even if I didn’t necessarily want to get up. Oddly enough, I think the vibrating has actually been more effective on me than the beeping, as it just feels wrong for my left wrist to start shaking, whereas I can sleep through a beeping alarm if it fits properly into my dreams.
Mitchell on the other hand, had a much different experience. When he came to visit from Australia, I had him wear the watch to bed – set to go off at 9am. Not only did he sleep through the alarm and vibration, he also slept through me pounding on the garage apartment door at almost noon. I should have expected him to sleep that soundly, after all – Sarah is the same age and she can sleep through anything.
So on its own and with no data output whatsoever, I think that the watch can be a useful awakening tool – assuming that you actually get in bed at a decent time relative to your necessary wake time, and assuming that you don’t sleep like the dead.
Of course there is another part to this review, and that is the software portion. Installation was a little tricky for me, as the software kept crashing on my Vista-running laptop. It was suggested that I download the latest Windows driver from the site, and that immediately solved my problem.
Here is what the Sleeptracker software looks like when it is pristine and freshly installed.
Wearing the watch to bed and gathering information will open this screen when it the device hooked to the computer via the USB cable and “Add Sleep Event” is clicked.
You can also input factors such as whether or not you had a daytime nap, whether you had caffeine at night, and many other factors that could affect your sleep.
After collecting data for a few days, you’ll get a nice set of information which…
…I never was quite clear on exactly what I was reading. I’ll admit it.
Some of the data looked erroneous, but I left it in for the sake of accuracy. I really didn’t feel that the software was necessary for my experience with the Sleeptracker; as far as I was concerned, if I woke up feeling rested the experiment was a success.
I did fine an aggravating error which would appear when I hit the “Best Sleep Sessions” button; perhaps this was the software’s way of telling me “none of the above”.
Even though the software and I were not a good fit, I found a lot of value in the Sleeptracker device itself. Even though I didn’t necessarily need to see and evaluate the data that was being gathered, it was still being gathered, and when I was able to set aside a decent amount of time for sleep, the device did help me wake up feeling rested. I found the vibrating alarm to be effective, and even though I did still hit the snooze a few mornings (which is quite normal for me on my regular alarm clock), overall I’d say that the watch did exactly what I had hoped for. Now, if it could have only made me get in bed at a decent time…
The Sleeptracker is available from the manufacturer.
What I Like: Watch does allow you to wake up feeling rested, providing you got a fair amount of sleep to begin with; understanding and using the included software is not necessary to reap benefits from using the device
What Needs Improvement: Watch is large, and will feel very foreign if you aren’t used to sleeping with one on; the software is a little bit clunky, but at least you don’t have to use it; sound sleepers may not hear or feel the alarm