Sleeping well at night thanks to WakeMate!

Sleeping well at night thanks to WakeMate!

I hate two things in this world more than just about everything: doing my laundry and waking up early. Despite valiant efforts, I rarely feel fully rested when waking up before 9:30 in the morning. Interestingly enough, I can go to bed at 10 pm or 12 am, wake up at 7:30, and still feel equally tired. I needed to dig into my sleep habits, because often times, more sleep didn’t help me feel more rested.

A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon a link to WakeMate on Tim Ferriss’s Twitter stream. Three weeks ago–after having the device pre-ordered for nearly a year–I received my device. Of course, when it arrived, I punished it to the extreme, did my best to find bugs, and tested out its abilities!

THE DEVICE AND WAKEMATE SOFTWARE

To track your sleeping habits, WakeMate uses something called actigraphy. At a basic level, actigraphy tracks your sleep patterns (light, deep, average, and deep levels of sleep) and predicts when you’ll wake up at the optimal, most rested time.

A picture of actigraphy shows a person's sleeping trends over time.

A picture of actigraphy shows a person's sleeping trends over time.

The device currently works with Android 2.0 and up, iOs 3.0 and up, and BlackBerry 4.5 and up (with more devices/OS planned). I tested the first generation WakeMate on an iPod Touch second generation with iOs 4.2.1. I started testing with WakeMate software version 1.1, but about halfway through my testing, the WakeMate developers pushed out their 1.2 update.

The device arrives in the mail in a sealed envelope with the following items: an instruction paper, one WakeMate elastic armband with a tracking chip built-in, an AC adapter (which is being recalled for overheating), and a micro-USB charger to charge the device.

Installing WakeMate on my iPod Touch and pairing the devices over Bluetooth were incredibly painless and easy. It took about 2 minutes to install WakeMate, and about 1 minute to pair the iPod Touch and WakeMate armband over Bluetooth. However, there lies a problem with the software: logging in is a pain (issue). It asks you to login every time you restart the device, and there’s no option to “remember me.” This issue was first found in software version 1.1, but verified most recently on 1.2. A positive aspect of the software is that it’s relatively straight forward and easy to use (plus there’s a area for sending feedback!).

A WakeMate screen capture when your alarm first goes off.

A WakeMate screen capture when your alarm first goes off.

When preparing to go to sleep, you slip the device on your non-dominate wrist, turn it on, and set your alarm. The device fits me very comfortably (almost too loose) and I’m approximately 6′ tall and weigh 155 lbs (but I do have pretty skinny wrists). The band is made from a soft fabric that doesn’t itch or scratch and weighs only a couple ounces.

The alarm, however, is where we run into a second issue. In both 1.1 and 1.2, there seems to be a software bug. I set my alarm to go off between 7:20 and 7:40 every morning. The device remembers this, and it says it’ll wake me up between those hours in the time scroll, but the alarm time is set to whatever the current time is (issue). On a more nit-picky note: the default WakeMate alarm sounds are pretty boring, although they do give you the option to import your own. Hopefully WakeMate adds more tones in the future, they’ve been great about pushing out software updates quickly so far.

Once the alarm is set, you can leave the device alone–it’ll wake you in the morning. The first night I tried using the device I had a problem, however. There’s an “I woke up early” option on the screen you can touch if you wake up before your alarm goes off. In version 1.1, this caused the program to immediately exit out and losing any of my sleeping data from that night [Note: this is a claimed fix in software version 1.2 but I was unable to test].

The second night I was able to get the device to work properly, and the following morning I imported my data with little issue. It took about 15 minutes to import the data (with an iPod reboot needed), but after the 1.2 upgrade the time to import decreased about 80%. Quite a nice surprise!

The battery on device is not the best, nor is the amount of draining it does to my iPod. It killed about 1/2 of my iPod Touch battery every night and the wrist band only lasts 3-4 nights (issue). Here’s what I wrote in my journal for the first night it worked properly:

“Night 2: Data imported immediately, no issues. Battery is about dead, so it lasts about 3 nights. Despite the WakeMate going into a pseudo-hibernation mode [during the night], my iPod Touch’s battery gets absolutely killed–WakeMate kills about half my iPod battery every night.”

On the fourth night, the “WakeMate” branding on the wristband started falling off as well (issue).

WAKELYTICS

The online tracking is by far my favorite part of the device. It’s absolutely incredible and sheds light into how well you’re sleeping throughout the night.

You can see an overview of the more recent nights; a breakdown of your light, medium and heavy sleep; and the number of awakenings you had… it’s absolutely incredible how much detail the site contains (they’ve promised a premium feature in the future with even more detail, albeit with a monthly cost). Below you can see my average sleep statistics over a couple nights. Especially interesting to me was the awakenings: I’m curious how they calculate that (based off movement?) as I move a lot during my sleep.

My sleep score averages for the past few nights.

My sleep score averages for the past few nights.

There are also a few different ways to view your sleep habits. Whereas you see the individual bars above, conversely you can see a single bar with breakdowns of your sleep.

Great info about what times you were in different sleep stages.

Great info about what times you were in different sleep stages.

But, using the the above screenshot as a basis, it doesn’t seem to track when you fall asleep correctly; it seems to be based on movement. I know I feel asleep shortly after 11:30 pm one night, because I looked at the clock, but checking Wakelytics the next day it said I was in deep and normal sleep for part of the time between 10:30 and 11:30 pm (issue).

Overall, however, Wakelytics is absolutely incredible. I’m making minor adjustments in my sleeping habits (and tracking using tags) to attempt to improve my time spent asleep.

Should you buy this? Maybe. I know, it’s an ambiguous answer, but it really depends. After using the WakeMate for a few weeks, I don’t feel more rested as a result. However, it’s relatively cheap ($60 as of this writing) and the Wakelytics online suite is very, very cool and if you make the proper adjustments using the Wakelytics as a basis, you may feel more rested.  I have no doubt that, similar to many other electronics, with more revisions the WakeMate will get even better.

QOD (question of the day): Do you notice yourself waking up often throughout the night?

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3 Responses to “Waking Up Less Tired: An Overview of WakeMate”

  1. Mom says:

    Sounds confusing and interesting, both. If it gets you to tweak your sleep habits to be more rested, $60 is a good deal. Let me know if it helps in the long run!

  2. Sleep user says:

    Hi

    Wondering about how long you used Wakemate device,and did you use it everynight!

    Thanks

    • David says:

      Hi Sleep user,

      Great question. I went through phases, using WakeMate more as something to track the experiments I was doing and measure success/failure. So, there were weeks were I would I would use it every day. Conversely, there were stretches of time I wouldn’t touch the WakeMate at all. In total, I’ve used it for about a year (from WakeMate software v1.0 to the current 2.0.2 software version).

      The difficulty in using it *every* day for long stretches of time–and I imagine the new, portable Zeo has the same problem–is that it became impractical to charge the WakeMate wristband and my iPod Touch every other day in time for sleeping during the night. To me, it’s better used every once in a while when messing around with factors that you think will affect your sleep.

      Hope that helps!

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