Sunday, 16 December 2007

The perfect alarm clock

I read somewhere that we get a better night's sleep if we wake up at the correct point in a sleep cycle. I assume that cycles take a approximately fixed amount of time, so we could go to bed at exactly the right time in order to wake up the right point. This is neither convenient or, given that going to bed doesn't mean going to sleep, practical. So how else to get the perfect night's sleep?

A device that monitors your brain waves and wakes you up at the correct point in a sleep cycle before a predetermined time. Some mornings you'd get more time, some less, but you'd set the predetermined time to get you to work before your boss got mad! I know that it's possible to monitor brain waves by wearing a silly hat with wires in it, but is it possible to measure brain activity remotely? e.g. a sensor at the head of the bed. This would make the device more suitable because I don't want to go to sleep in a hat (it make you bald).


adreama said...

If heart rate is in some way connected with ultradian rhythms then work underway by the HeartCycle project might turn this idea into a reality.

adreama said...

It seems this idea was thought of before.

It also now been commercialised. I have seen three such products Sleeptracker, aXbo and Zeo, and an iPhone app that does the same thing, the Sleep Cycle alarm clock.

Having read a review of Sleeptracker, I am not convinced this is actually the right solution. In particular “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”, there unnatural moments include disturbance by “spouse’s alarm, pets, children, neighbors, etc.”.

So if these products aren't the ultimate solution, what is? What is the specification of the perfect alarm clock? It has to wake you feeling refreshed (and therefore probably gradually); it must not be susceptable to “unnatural influences” referred to in the review; it must not be painful; it must not be uncomfortable to sleep with; and it must not wake a partner sharing the same bed.

Some other ideas I've considered:
-an eye mask with a built in sunrise alarm (the light won't wake your partner, but the mask is uncomfortable)
-an implant that releases adrenaline, caffeine, a melatonin inhibitor or some other useful hormone/chemical/stimulant (kind of like this, but an implant)
-a patch (like a nicotene patch) that releases adrenaline, caffeine, a melatonin inhibitor or some other useful hormone/chemical/stimulant (this product suggests caffeine can enter via the skin)
-some kind of sunrise alarm where the light is directly on your skin (not eyes – that's painful) perhaps via a wrist band, a T-shirt, etc (this article suggests skin is photosensitive, and this article states that “the largest organ in humans to synthesise melatonin is skin”)

What I'd really like to see in the mean time would be a bluetooth heartrate monitor, wrist motion sensor or headband brainwave meter that transmits the data to a smartphone, which then acts as a sleep phase alarm clock.

adreama said...

Further ideas:

A strobe light alarm clock (based on the something I read somewhere that said that TV was particularly good at keeping you awake due to the flashing light)

Using white noise, or whale song, or other non-music sounds (other than beep beep beep).