I have never been a “morning person”. In general I almost always have to will myself out of bed, and it is usually easy for me to just fall back asleep and be out for another hour beyond my alarm, without any intervention. I currently use 3 alarms that go off in a similar range with various triggers. My main alarm is based on my sleep cycle (and it uses an app called Sleep Cycle, in fact), which is supposed to go off at the lightest point in my sleep cycle that is within a 30 minute period between 7 and 7:30AM. The second alarm is on my Fitbit, and it goes off seemingly at random in that same time range. The final alarm is at 7:15 and is a music alarm, designed to make the process a bit more pleasant as it plays a full album for me as I go through the stages of waking up, getting up, and starting my morning. This works decently to get me up most days, but I seldom feel confident I’ve gotten good rest.
Both Sleep Cycle and Fitbit provide me a “sleep score”, and it aligns about half the time. I tend to feel Fitbit’s is more accurate, both because it is directly measuring actual biometrics (whereas Sleep Cycle is, I think, audio-based), and because it seems to align more directly with how I ultimately feel, although even in that there are plenty of times I’ll disagree with my score, either better or worse. But in either case I don’t know my sleep score until after I wake up.
I had an experience recently where my alarm went off and I felt tired. I didn’t want to get up. So I didn’t. I laid around in bed, snoozed my alarm, and only got up about 30 minutes later. When I did, however, my sleep score was really good (at least with Fitbit), and not just because I had a bit more sleep - my resting heart rate and restlessness were unusually low. Not only that but once I got up, I felt great! Even though I felt like I really needed more sleep just 30 or so minutes before. What I started to wonder was whether I simply happened to be in a deeper phase of sleep when my alarm went off and so I felt less well rested and, not knowing any better, I went with my instinct and just slept more. What if I had known then that I actually did get a good night’s sleep? Would it change my beliefs and feelings about that moment of the alarm going off?
Imagine an alarm where, instead of setting a time range to wake up within based on being in the lightest portion of sleep, instead you set a minimum sleep quality score (potentially on all 3 tracked metrics (in the Fitbit app it’s “Time asleep”, “Deep and REM”, and “Restoration” i.e. restlessness and heart rate factors). And probably you set a “latest wake-up time” (which could be rather later than you’re used to waking up). Now, when your alarm goes off, you know that you’ve had a quality night of sleep, no matter what time it is (either that or it’s kind of late and time to get up anyway). And it could even show you your sleep score on the alarm screen, along with the time. I don’t know about you, but seeing an 85 sleep score would give me a lot more confidence about breaking my hold on sleep and starting the day, no matter what time it was. Over time this might even incentivize and train you to sleep better. Vs. a sleep cycle-based alarm which if anything just trains you to match your cycle to the latest part of the alarm.
What I find interesting in thinking about this is that my actual wake-up time might not change that much, on average. What I hope it will do, though, is change my beliefs about wake-up time, and thus potentially change my experience of it. Right now when my alarm goes off, the only information I really have is from my Sleep Cycle alarm, which tells me that this was the “best time to wake me up within a 45 minute period based on where I am in my sleep cycle”. Setting aside whether that’s even accurate (which I do question), it doesn’t tell me anything about how well I slept, at least not until I turn off the alarm and see the analysis results. So I tend to trust my body in those moments and, although that’s generally a good idea, at the same time - due to sleep cycles - you could easily feel rather tired even though you got a great night of sleep. In other words it could just be a transitory, short-term state of your body and resulting experience. What if you could know that at the moment your alarm went off?