Smart phones, smart watches, what’s next, a smart bed?

Lately my sleep has been pretty much garbage, and I probably need a sleep study. But sleep studies are expensive and a lot of hassle to maybe find out nothing’s actually wrong, so in the meantime I got a sleep tracker kit.

Background

Previously I’d used my Pebble smartwatch’s built-in sleep tracking functionality, but then Pebble went under and I switched to an Apple Watch. There are sleep tracker applications available for it, but the Apple Watch isn’t very suitable for it for a number of reasons:

  • It is way too thick to fit under my wrist braces (which I sleep in to mitigate chronic pain)
  • The sleep tracker apps end up using up a lot of battery, and my morning shower (as long as it is) isn’t long enough for the watch to recharge fully
  • The actual sleep analysis from the free apps was pretty lacking

I also have used Sleep Cycle on and off for years, but it hasn’t been all that effective as of late (mostly due to changes in the iPhone hardware and Sleep Cycle’s shift in focus towards acoustic rather than motion tracking, not to mention the developer’s insistence on replacing their original one-time payment with ongoing subscription-based “premium” features), either with or without the use of the Apple Watch.

So, I was looking at dedicated sleep tracker devices and found that they came in two major categories:

  • Bulky, expensive, wrist-worn devices which wouldn’t work along with my wrist braces
  • Bed-mounted sensors that infer things based on motion and vibration in various ways

Of all the latter options, the Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor seemed like the best choice that was readily-available; Nokia also makes a similar device but it wasn’t currently in stock and also doesn’t get as good reviews anyway.

Setup

So, my kit arrived Monday (the 9th of July), and I set it up, which was pretty easy; I simply mounted the sensors to the box spring as directed and went through a not-terribly-onerous pairing process. Initially I set it up with only a single sensor mounted to the middle (per the guidance of the seller on Amazon) but after I set it up it became clear that it actually supports a single sleeper with both sensors, so I went ahead and reconfigured it that way.

It’s worth noting that as much as the product description talks about the Alexa integration, I neither have nor want an Alexa device, but it functions just fine without it. The Alexa skill simply seems to only tell you the most basic stuff that the app shows you every morning anyway, so it doesn’t seem like functionality that I’ll ever actually care for.

First night

Here is what it told me about my first night with it enabled:

The measured heartrate matches the one time I slept with my Apple Watch on, and the respiration rate seems at least credible. There also was one time during the night that I woke up, although I don’t know exactly when it was.

Poking around in the app I found a bunch of useful stuff that I didn’t have enabled, such as a smart alarm (similar to what Sleep Cycle does as its primary purpose) and also post-wake-up questionnaires that have a bunch of different things about pain, medication, stress, and so on; Sleep Cycle has very basic functionality along those lines but it was never quite satisfactory.

Second night

I had a hard time falling to sleep, primarily due to pain issues. Plus it was really warm in my room.

Right at 8:30 the alarm I set woke me up, and there was no fade-in period or the like. It was quite… alarming. I have changed my alarm to be one of my wakefulness tracks. Let’s see how that goes.

The monitor did correctly recognize that I went to bed at around 12:30 and didn’t fall asleep until after 2:30. It also saw the time that I woke up around 4 AM.

The “coach insight” was a bit less useful:

Last night your sleep score was 58, which is 17 lower than your score from the previous night. If your schedule permits, try turning that around tonight to get back on the right track for tomorrow.

Sure, I will pencil in a schedule to not have insomnia, thanks for the suggestion.

The post-wakeup questionnaire was incredibly tedious to go through due to poor UX. I submitted a suggestion for improved UX; they already responded with a non-answer telling me about the ability to turn question categories on and off, which was… not the problem. At all. Hooray for form letter support responses.

Also when poking around in their support documentation and press releases and so on, they refer to users as “Ms. and Mr. Everyone” most of the time, aside from when they refer to them as “Mr. and Ms. Everyone” instead. Which is… really weird? There’s also some other odd turns of phrase, like on one of the FAQ pages, “What is sleep and why do we, and mammals, sleep?” Lots of poor grammar as well. I suspect they just had an overworked engineer write the documentation. Maybe they should hire a copy-editor who has also gotten enough sleep.

Third night

I set the alarm to be one of my Wakefulness tracks, and I took a Benadryl before bed. I slept pretty okay. Sleeptracker said I slept pretty okay. It woke me up without trouble, and I felt pretty okay all day.

Tomorrow will be the real test: will I wake up early enough and feel well enough to drive to Kobekon? I sure hope so.

Future

I do suspect that I’ll get a bit annoyed at being multiply alerted by the app; it gives me the sleep report when I wake up, and they also email me a copy as well. There’s also a “premium” service that they keep trying to upsell (which costs $30/year and offers supposedly more thorough analysis). It also remains to be seen what happens on nights that I don’t sleep in my own bed for whatever reason.

So far I doubt the app itself has anything to do with my better sleep, but it at least gives me tools to see what I’m doing right and wrong and at least makes me a bit more mindful about my sleep. Maybe over time it’ll give me more insight as to what helps me sleep better, although really I think making me stick to a schedule is the most important thing. Let’s see how long this toy works for me.

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