Note that the following review expresses my opinions. Each Sleeptracker user will have slightly varying experiences.
My experience with Sleeptracker prompted me to write this review. If you want to see a mostly positive review of Sleeptracker checkout the Gear Live review. If you do not know what the Sleeptracker is, make sure to look at the Innovative Sleep Solutions website.
How it Works
Sleep tracker is a watch you wear during the night. You set an alarm time and a ‘window’ time within which the Sleeptracker watch will sound its alarm if it detects that you are almost awake. Sleeptracker detects when you are ‘almost awake’ through an accelerometer (a device that detects movement) in the watch. In effect, when your arm shakes or moves in a certain way in your sleep, Sleeptracker believes you are almost awake. When one of these arm shakes/movement occurs during your wakeup window, the Sleeptracker alarm sounds.
To clarify, my definition of "succes" is when Sleeptracker successfully caused me to get out of bed after an ‘almost awake’ moment. Throughout my first three weeks with Sleeptracker, I had a success rate less than 1 in 4 nights. One primary reason why I bought Sleeptracker was to make my wakeup routine MORE routine. However, my testing has shown that (for me), Sleeptracker is less consistent than my previous traditional alarm clock routine. This is the case for several reasons: Sleeptracker’s quiet alarm ( I don’t have to get out of bed to shut the alarm off), and the fact that there are many external interruptions (spouse’s alarm, pets, children, neighbors, etc.) that cause Sleeptracker to disappoint.
The Quiet Alarm
Lee Loree, one of the Sleeptracker guys from Innovative Sleep Solutions, told me that the Sleeptracker focus group(s) preferred a quieter alarm. This conclusion makes sense to me, especially since Sleeptracker is supposed to be a gentle wakeup device. However, once I had gotten past my initial ‘wow-factor’ morning wakeups, I began to ignore Sleeptracker’s alarm in the mornings. One of my suggestions to Lee is that this failure mechanism could be minimized effectively by having a transmitter that can trigger a remote alarm clock, which in turn sounds an alarm that ascends in volume until you get out of bed and turn it off.
The Next Sleeptracker
Mr. Loree did mention that the next Sleeptracker design (due out sometime later this year) will incorporate a small vibrating mechanism in addition to the alarm. While I think this will help somewhat, I think much more is needed to increase Sleeptracker’s effectiveness. I also wonder how much this new addition will affect the watch's long-term reliability (especially the accelerometer) and battery life.
The Practicality of Using the Watch Long-Term
With Sleeptracker, you have to eliminate any possible noise source that may cause unnatural 'almost awake' moments during your wakeup window, or else Sleeptracker will sound its alarm. (This includes coordinating alarm times with whomever you may live with, something I discovered the hard way.) While this may seem like common sense, it is surprising to discover how many "normal" nighttime events can cause these unnatural wakeup events.
Before I went to bed each night, I did the following:
- Set Sleeptracker wakeup window (0, 10, 20, or 30 minutes)
- Set Sleeptracker "Go to Bed" Time
- Set Sleeptracker Alarm time
- Set a normal, louder alarm as a secondary backup in case Sleeptracker didn't wake me.
Realistically, that's too complicated to do on a nightly basis (albeit most of the set-times shouldn't change on a daily basis, but you still are inclined to check each time before going to bed.)
I found it curious that Innovative Sleep Solutions does not stamp their Sleeptracker watch with ‘patent pending’ or a patent number.In fact, I could not find any mention of a patent on the Sleeptracker website or their product manual. I’ve speculated a bit on possible patents, but the registration for each of those doesn’t make mention of Innovative Sleep Solutions, Lee Loree, or any of the other people I found who are associated with the company.
Concept a Bit too Beta
Another Sleeptracker user commented that Sleeptracker seems a bit too ‘beta’ at this point. I couldn’t agree more. There may be potential for the Sleeptracker concept, but there are definitely a few bugs in the system. I found it to need a more effective wakeup mechanism, easier ‘snooze’ features, and most importantly fewer false positive ‘almost awake’ alarms.
An example of the watch being too beta is the fact that if you sleep with your arm under your pillow (which I do sometimes) or in some other location that restricts movement, Sleeptracker's effectiveness will necessarily decrease, and your sleep cycle times will be incorrectly inflated.
Also, you know there must be a good number of bugs to work out if the inventor is still testing his concept: see Gear Live’s interview with Lee Loree, the Sleeptracker inventor.
The 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
I have to commend Innovative Sleep Solutions on their 30-day money back guarantee. Although I had to pay for shipping both ways (less than $12 total), the company made it fairly easy to exercise that guarantee. I called their phone number, left a message, and someone (Lee Loree) returned my call with the return address. I sent the watch back a day or two ago, and that was it.
In my opinion, Sleeptracker in its current form is one of those gadgets that will end up on a shelf, collecting dust. As a gadget geek, I had great intentions in purchasing Sleeptracker: I planned to improve my sleeping habits by ensuring that I woke up on time, every time. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I hoped to at least introduce a more consistent method of waking up in the morning and actually feeling awake.
For me, the Sleeptracker operating concept has two primary weaknesses: too subtle of a wakeup mechanism and too high a probability for unnatural ‘almost awake’ alarms. Obviously, my second criticism is somewhat dependent on my sleeping environment, but unless you live in a cave you will undoubtedly face some disturbances during your sleep.
What I am Going to Try Next
I think some type of sleep-monitoring device would be great to help determine when my alarm should sound. However, I don’t know of any such products, including Sleeptracker, that have proven that method to be especially effective. I now think it may be a good idea to induce an environment where I can be gradually woken up. The concept I have found that most demonstrates this environmental inducement is an alarm clock with a light that gradually intensifies in its luminosity (one example is the Soleil Sun Alarm). Maybe I’ll give that device a whirl now….I hope it works!