How iOS 10 Bedtime works

Are you ground down by the grind? Perhaps you need to go to bed.

Apple, iOS, iPhone Bedtime, health, digital health, sleep tracker
Credit: Brendan/Flickr

Digital health means figuring out how connected devices can help quantify what you already do in order to enable you to do better. In many cases, you’ll achieve big results through smaller, incremental changes, and that’s what iOS 10’s little-used ‘Bedtime’ feature tries to provide.

What is Bedtime?

You can already get self-hypnosis apps to help you get a good night’s sleep, such as Relax & Sleep Well or Sleep Well Hypnosis. Bedtime does not offer the same features, but is designed to help you improve your own sleeping habits by helping you go to sleep and rise at appropriate times. Bedtime is available from within the Clock app, just tap the Bedtime item at the bottom of the screen.

How to activate Bedtime

When you begin using Bedtime (tap ‘Get Started’ in the Bedtime screen) you will need to answer a few simple questions before it is enabled. You will be guided through these questions across a series of pages, where you will be asked:

  • What time would you like to get up?
  • What days would you like the alarm to go off?
  • How many hours of sleep do you need each night? (Most adults need between seven and eight hours sleep).
  • When would you like a bedtime reminder?
  • What do you want to hear when you wake up?

Alarm tones

You can choose between nine gentle wake up tones. Bedtime starts playing these tones quite quietly and then gently raises them for five minutes until you rise.

  • Early Riser,
  • First Light,
  • Helios,
  • Orbit,
  • Birdsong,
  • Droplets,
  • Sunny,
  • Springtide,
  • Bright-eyed.

When you’ve completed set-up, Bedtime will explain the importance of keeping consistent sleeping habits and sleeping and rising at around the same time.

The app will calculate the number of hours you spend in bed by analyzing your motion and device usage. It will store this data inside Apple's Health app. 

sleep Jonny Evans

What Bedtime does

Once setup is complete tapping the Bedtime screen will provide you with a display that lets you see when you should wake and rise at a glance.

You can easily define new wake and rising times by tapping and moving the big circle in the middle of the screen. You can also explore the all-important Sleep Analysis tools and a ‘More history’ item that takes you to the Sleep Analysis data you have gathered in your Health app over time.

The options button gives you other options, including the capacity to state on which days you want the feature activated, when you want to be reminded it is time for bed, what sound to wake you up with and how loud you would like the alarm to be.

The idea is you will in future be able to easily see on which night's your sleep patterns become irregular, and be empowered to make a visual association between those days when you do and do not get enough sleep and how you felt that day.

Does it work?

The app attempts to gamify your sleeping patterns by challenging you to keep the Sleep Analysis bars aligned by sleeping and rising at the same time each night. This sounds interesting, but does it work?

It turns out that the app reflects at least some scientific research. In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society both updated their advice to recommend adults sleep seven or more hours each night.

The researchers found that even though people who regularly do not get enough sleep become used to the sensations of this, they do in fact suffer from significant reduction in cognitive performance -- they are just not aware of this.

People who suffer from sleeplessness (including myself) will really only become aware of the difference on those nights when they do achieve uninterrupted sleep, when they become more capable, positive and alert.

There is some impact from modern ways of life, according to the Sleep Research Society, which notes that lack of sleep, regularly shortened sleep, or insomnia may elevate the risk of diabetes, stroke, depression and other problems.

Modern working conditions and a TV culture that wants to keep you watching late at night may contribute to problems with sleep.

University of Pennsylvania “Sleep doctor”, professor, Mathias Basner, thinks the strength of Bedtime is it may help promote discussion of the benefits of healthy sleep.

What next?

As Apple applies machine intelligence to digital health data drawn from the sensors it is putting inside its products, it seems likely iOS users can look forward to increasingly accurate personalized health recommendations.

Used in combination with the daily Activity tracker and the relaxed state heart rate testing you get when you use Apple’s Breathe app, Bedtime suggests the company to be working very hard to develop an ecosystem of quantified health sensors that when used together will support better self-care and professional analysis of a person’s general condition

This should enable healthier habits for all users, which in itself should reduce the impact of poor habits on health insurance providers and national health services.

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