Renew SleepClock by Gear4 Review
Nothing refreshes the body like a good, long session of deep sleep. But many of us often wake up groggy even after sleeping many hours, and one reason, according to sleep experts, is how we wake up. If the alarm clock goes off and we open our eyes and trudge out of bed when the body has just begun a deep sleep cycle, they say, the effect is a sleep inertia that can hobble us for the rest of the day.
Now there's a new alarm clock available that was designed to help you avoid sleep inertia by monitoring your sleep cycles—without a wearable sensor—and waking you up only when you're sleeping most lightly. It's called the Renew SleepClock by Gear4 ($199.95 on gear4.com) and combines a motion sensing iOS-device docking station-clock radio with a dedicated app that both wakes you and tracks your sleep habits over time.
The hardware transmits two channels of 10GHz radio frequency signals in a 45-degree beam. These signals bounce off your body and are received back at the device by a sensor, which then processes them and passes the data to the app. The app uses the data to discern your breathing pattern and monitor your movements. Based on these interpretations, the app knows when you've fallen asleep, how long you've slept, when you're sleeping lightly or deeply, and when your sleep has been interrupted (for example, when you get out of bed for a 2 AM bathroom break). In the morning, the app uses all the captured data to determine the best time to wake you up within a one-hour time slot that you've preset in one of two built-in alarms.
Seven different alarm sounds are built in to the app––chirping birds, garden creature sounds, mellow music, crashing waves and the call of seagulls, falling rain and bird chirps, folk guitar music and the sounds of animals in an Australian rain forest––or you can choose to wake to the sound of either the built-in FM radio or your own iTunes music. All of your sleep data for the previous day, week, month or year is available in the app's Sleep Stats section, as well.
Fortunately, none of the functions requires you to wear any sort of sensor-transmitter that itself could disturb your sleep, unlike the other sleep monitors Techlicious has tested. Moreover, the signal beam sent out by the clock-radio has a range of about four feet, so it will only capture data for the person closest to it and not confuse the breathing and motions of two people who are in bed together. And its low-power radio-frequency emissions are 1/1,000th that of a Bluetooth headset, so it also won't interfere with pacemakers, brain shunts or CPAP machines, says Gear4.
In my own week-long test, using a beta-test version of the newest Renew app (version 1.4, which was just released in the iTunes App Store this week), everything about the Renew SleepClock worked well. I awoke to the sound of chirping birds feeling more refreshed and awake than I usually would on my own.
When I began testing the Renew SleepClock, the current version of the app was 1.3.1. It lacked certain features now available in version 1.4, including a personalized sleep quality score based on your total time in bed, total sleep time and total deep sleep time; a personalized sleep target based on the norm for your age; a bedtime reminder that suggests the best time to go to bed to meet your sleep target; recommendations to guide you to better sleep patterns; and a daily journal section, where you can record your activities to help identify those that may be interfering with your sleep.
Future versions of the app are expected to include a white noise generator that works until a person falls asleep or plays sound all night (according to the user's preference), and an audio recorder that can help identify other noises that may be interfering with sleep throughout the night.
The Renew SleepClock promises help in attaining both a better night's sleep and a more energy-filled day. Through an innovative combination of hardware and an app, it delivers on that promise.
In my own tests over a four-night period everything about the Renew SleepClock worked well...when it worked. Unfortunately for me, that was only half the time. On two nights the app autonomously quit tracking my movements at some point while I slept and failed to record any data, although one morning-after it did wake me within the one-hour time slot I had specified. (The other morning I awoke and closed the app before the alarm would sound.) With the help of a Gear4 troubleshooter, I traced the app's failure on both of these nights to the Apple iOS "iCloud Backup" function, which "jettisoned" the app to free up memory for itself. But users now should not face the same problem. A fix for this conflict was released this week in a new version of the app (1.4). There are additional features in that new version of the app, too: a personalized sleep quality score based on your total time in bed, total sleep time and total deep sleep time; a personalized sleep target based on the norm for your age; a bedtime reminder that suggests the best time to go to bed to meet your sleep target; recommendations to guide you to better sleep patterns; and a daily journal section, where you can record your activities to help identify those that may be interfering with your sleep. Also on the roadmap for the app are a white noise generator that works until a person falls asleep or plays sound all night (according to the user's preference), and an audio recorder that can help identify other noises that may be interfering with sleep throughout the night.