Sleep Cycle App: The alarm clock to wake up on time & refreshed

Sleep Cycle Alarm
(Image: © Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

I probably can speak for a lot of people when I say that hearing your alarm blasting each morning, rudely awakening you from your slumber, is the most annoying part of the day. After all, who wants to get up and deal with reality when you can be comfortable and in dreamland?

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I have trouble getting up and out of bed, and I have for years. Now, part of that is my fault — I have a habit of watching trashy TV until the wee hours of the morning — and part of it is science! Many years ago I went searching for a better way to wake myself up and found Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock (referred to as Sleep Cycle from here on out), and I haven't looked back since.

What is Sleep Cycle?

In short, Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock that aims to track your sleep and wake you up in a more peaceful and less abrupt manner, allowing you to feel less tired and more alert when you hear the alarm going off in the morning. How does it do this? With a little bit of science of course!

The method behind the madness

When we sleep, we go through something called a sleep cycle (where have I heard that before), which means not all sleep is equal. Without getting too technical, we drift through various stages of light and deep sleep as our body and our brains rest. We go through multiple sleep cycles a night, and on average one sleep cycle takes about one or two hours to complete.

Now when you set a regular alarm clock to ring at a particular time, it will go off at that set time and wake you up regardless of where you are in your sleep cycle. This can rip you out of a very deep sleep very abruptly, and that's why someday you wake up feeling groggy and tired. This is where Sleep Cycle comes in and saves the day.

Sleep Cycle aims to wake you up when you are are in the very light stage of your sleep cycle which means you aren't being ripped out of a deep sleep. This leads to waking up feeling more refreshed and less tired.

How does it work?

Sleep Cycle has two ways of monitoring your sleep. You can choose to use the microphone or the accelerometer; both work practically the same, but require a slightly different setup.

When you use the microphone, the app will tell you to plug in your phone and lay it flat, screen side-down on a nightstand or table beside your bed after you set the alarm. This allows the app to listen to your movements and snoring and judges where you are in your sleep cycle.

Using the accelerometer practically works the same; however, you need to put your phone on the bed with you. Once you set the alarm, you can lift off the corner of the sheet (the one that covers the mattress), place your phone screen side down, and plug it in.

Some limitations

To use Sleep Cycle as an alarm is free and you won't have to pay anything, but if you want access to all the features, it will cost you a yearly subscription fee of $29.99. That subscription gives you access to long-term sleep tracking, graphs and charts that show your sleeping trends, and a few other goodies. You can always sign up for the free trial month to see how you like it before diving into the subscription.

Sleep Cycle works better when you're alone in the bed. I have tried it with my partner and I sharing a bed (using both the microphone and accelerometer), and while it didn't ultimately fail, it did seem to have trouble waking me up as peacefully as it does when I'm alone. It seems like a given being that it's two primary methods of tracking your sleep are pretty easily interfered with.

Does it work?

Well, that's a bit of a loaded question, but I can tell you from my personal experience that I love it. I used it most nights during the week to wake up for work, and I often find that I don't have to hit snooze and I feel more refreshed than the nights I opt not to use Sleep Cycle.

While the app has helped me greatly, it's no miracle worker. If you go to bed too late and don't allow yourself to get enough sleep, waking up will be harder and you likely won't feel as refreshed; however, since Sleep Cycle wakes you up during the lightest stage of sleep it will probably be easier to wake up even on less sleep.

I highly suggest anyone who has trouble waking up in the morning to give Sleep Cycle a try because of worst case scenario, you just stop using it and delete it off your phone, but best case scenario, you just found your new favorite app.

Do you like Sleep Cycle?

Do you use Sleep Cycle or a different app? Let us know in the comment below.

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Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.