Free Time

Do humans dream in electric sleep?

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As you’ll read on page 11, mobile phone apps are everywhere. They can get you from A to B, they can help you pinpoint galaxies in the night sky. And now they can help you sleep. Or, to put it more accurately, one certain app claims to wake you up feeling refreshed and rested.

Really? Let me tell you, I’m married to a teacher. I am woken from slumber at 6am everyday by the delicate tones of a 2400W hairdryer screeching away mere feet from my right ear. I never wake up feeling refreshed and rested and no app, mobile phone or Babylonic songbird can help otherwise. Or so I thought.

I stumbled across the SleepCycle app during another dazed morning’s commute, tapping aimlessly at my phone, waiting for the coffee I ingested half an hour ago to do its thing.

‘No.1 app in Japan, Norway, France and many more’ cried the SleepCycle marketing blurb. ‘We are now helping more than 100,000 people to wake up rested!’ it boasted. Impossible, I thought, how on Earth…’Waking up at the right time is an amazing thing. I couldn’t believe the difference it made’, said one reviewer. ‘It felt like I was already awake and the iPhone just let me know it’, said another.

Ok, ok, have my 59p, I’m sold. What happens now? That night, as instructed, I activated the app, told it what time I wanted to wake up and put the phone next to my pillow. Using your iPhone’s accelerometer (movement tracker), Sleep Cycle monitors your body position during the night, detecting when you are in periods of deep sleep, when you are dreaming and when you are in your lightest sleep phase. It then uses a 30-minute window up to the time at which you set the alarm to wake you up in your lightest sleep phase (which sleep scientists claim is close to awake).

After a couple of nights of analysis and hairdryer for alarm clock, it happened. At 5.34am on a Wednesday morning, the mellow tones of SleepCycle’s alarm call gently woke me. What followed hasn’t happened in years. I got up almost instantly, had enough energy to put on my slippers, iron a shirt and nip to the shop for the paper. Fresh as a daisy I returned, went to the kitchen, ground up some coffee beans and heard a perturbed sound from the bedroom: “Can you keep it down, I’m trying to sleep”. If only there was an app for that…

What followed hasn’t happened in years. I got up almost instantly, had enough energy to put on my slippers, iron a shirt and nip to the shop for the paper.

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