Sleep Cycle App Will Kick You Out of Bed, But Gently

The Sleep Cycle app is listed as “essential” in the app store, and for good reason! Sleep Cycle is an app that helps wake you up based on how you sleep. Since I’m basically the opposite of a morning person, I find that the customizable features and 30-minute “wake-up phase” help me feel less like a zombie when I wake up. Instead, I’m more ready to face my day fully recharged (if that’s even possible with me).

How it works

  1. When you’re ready for bed, set Sleep Cycle’s wake-up alarm and place your phone face-down next to your bed or on the edge of your mattress.
  2. Using your phone’s microphone or accelerometer (a type of motion detector), your sleep patterns are analyzed based on your movements in bed.
  3. While you sleep, the app tracks the peaks and valleys of your lightest to deepest sleep phases.
  4. Since I share a bed with another Sleep Cycle user, the app links our phones through the Wi-Fi connection, accounting for both of our movements. That way his sleep phases don’t impact my sleep statistics and vice versa.

How to customize

Using the app settings, select how you’d like to wake up, choosing between several fairly gentle alarm sounds, such as “warm breeze” or “forest glade.”  Premium users can also enable the “random alarm sound” setting to cycle through a new one each day so you don’t get too irritated with just one sound (you can get irritated with them all instead!).

I use the “random” feature to keep things interesting, and to prevent myself from getting so used to one tone that I start to sleep through the alarm. Plus, I know myself ­– there are only so many times I can hear “forest glade” in one week before chucking my phone across the room and dozing back off to sleep.

During the recommended 30-minute, “wake-up phase,” the alarm goes off when you’re in your lightest sleep of that time period, making it easier to wake. For me, this setting means instead of feeling majorly groggy and sluggish when my alarm sounds, I feel only slightly groggy– a big improvement in my book.

You “hit” snooze by either double tapping on or near your phone or by picking up the entire phone. The “intelligent” feature can also be programmed so the alarm sounds get closer together each time you hit snooze, which I found to be an especially useful feature. Since I’m a true snooze-button-addict, I need an extra few kicks in the morning to willingly emerge from the covers.


The app provides reports on your average sleep quality and time in bed every day, and premium users can access trend reports for the days, weeks, and months you use the app. Premium users can also record mood and heart rate upon waking, add “sleep notes” like whether you worked out or consumed alcohol, and see how weather might affect sleep.  For example, I learned I sleep significantly better on days I work out, and significantly worse after I consume alcohol, experience a stressful day, or get a sunburn!

What I Learned

I learned that my deepest sleep is typically between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., which could be why I have such a hard time waking up most mornings. I was also fascinated to see how my daytime activities affected my sleep quality. I now think twice before having that glass or two of wine before bed when I want to feel rested the next day. I also try to give myself plenty of time to unwind before bed, and the app motivates me to keep on track with my gym schedule — no one likes a poor night’s rest!

Any Critiques?

The app helped me learn more about my sleep patterns and the effect my habits have on them, but didn’t exactly change my life. I may never be a morning person and I’ll probably never find an app that can make me into one.

There’s also no way to know the true accuracy of the sleep cycle app. I sometimes wake up feeling as if I’ve had the best sleep of my life, only to have the app report my sleep quality at 50 percent. The app isn’t a substitute for a sleep study and doesn’t claim to be, but these little inconsistencies can sometimes leave me second-guessing the technology.

The Gist

Healthy sleep is critical to good health. When you sleep well, you tend to feel better, be more alert and reduce your risks for medical conditions, such as heart disease.  Sleep Cycle helps me better understand my sleep needs and patterns, helping me get more of that essential shut-eye!


Cost: FREE

Premium: $29.99/year

Disclaimer: Excellus BlueCross BlueShield does not endorse or have any business relationship with Sleep Cycle.

Erika Gruszewski

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