Most of us need to get more sleep, but it’s easy to lure yourself into a false sense of how many hours you get in a given night. Lying down at 11:30 doesn’t mean much if you’re checking Twitter and Facebook until 12:30 or 1 in the morning.
Pillow is a free app that turns your iPhone into a sleep tracker, and keeps you accountable for how much you sleep. The way it works is fairly simple: open the app before you go to bed, set a time you’d like to wake up, and hit the start button. The app will allow you to record notes about your day, like whether you had a late-night snack. After that, just slip your iPhone under your pillow, and hit the sack like normal.
During the night, Pillow will use the sensors in the iPhone to track your tossing and turning, and translate that into a handy graph for you to wake up to that shows the different stages of your sleep throughout the night, from being awake through light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep.
It also uses that information to calculate a “sleep quality” metric that tells you how well you slept in addition to how much you slept. It will also sync the amount that you sleep with your iPhone’s Health app, so you can view it as a part of that app’s data dashboard.
I’m not sure how accurate those particular metrics are (since I’m not exactly conscious to verify them) but for the most part, my graphs make sense with what I’ve experienced. One night, the app showed that I was awake the whole time, even though I know that I was out cold. It’s not clear to me what caused the problem, which highlights one of the issues with Pillow: once you slip it under your pillow, there’s no way to see what the app is doing.
People who want more information about their sleep habits can pay for the app’s premium features, which cost $4.99. They’ll let you play back all the sounds that Pillow recorded during the night, like the agonized moans that result from waking up at 3 a.m. with a calf cramp. (I speak from very painful experience.)
Those recordings aren’t the best part, though: that award goes to the graphs that correlate your sleep data with other information from Apple’s Health app. They make it possible to compare how well you slept with a bunch of other factors like the number of steps you took, your caffeine intake, blood alcohol content and calories consumed. It’s a great way to see how the things you do on a daily basis affect how you sleep.
The app also includes coaching through the “Snooze Lab” that tries to profile your sleep style and
Pillow also has an iPad app, but I found it to work best as a companion for viewing your data, rather than as a sleep tracker in its own right. While Apple has made some significant strides in downsizing its tablets, I still found it uncomfortable to have my iPad Mini 3 resting underneath my head for a night. The larger screen is a beautiful way to interact with the graphs that Pillow generates, though.
Overall, Pillow is a great way to keep yourself accountable for your sleep habits. It’s easy to think that you’re sleeping more than you actually are, and this is a solid way to make sure that the number of hours of sleep you want to get line up with the hours you are getting.
Pillow is available for free from the iOS App Store.