LARK Technologies brings a silent alarm and sleep coach to market. The inventor, Julia Hu, decided it would be a good idea to be able to get some sleep instead of being awakened by someone else’s alarm…especially when “someone else” might like the snooze button just a little too much (like two or three or ten times).
The LARK system uses a buzzer like the one used in cell phones for the “vibrate only” setting to wake you up without the sound of large vehicles in reverse scaring you awake. The philosophy is that waking up without the jarring noise is actually better for you by not inducing a large dose of adrenaline first thing. However, that isn’t all the device offers (yikes, did I just say “but wait, there’s more…”?). Anyway, the system does provide more than just a quiet way to wake up. Combined with the LARK Up app, the system provides you with sleep data such as how long it took to fall asleep and how many times you wake up in the night.
Not many people realize sleep is one of the four essentials for human survival. Most people know how long you can go without food (about 30 days) and how long you can go without water (about 5 days) and if you give up oxygen for about 7 minutes you will die (not very cheerful, but those are the facts). So, what’s the big deal over sleep? The people at LARK Technologies are here to help us understand and make better use of the very necessary activity that occupies almost 1/3 of our time on Earth. To find out just how serious sleep deprivation can be, I did a bit of research and found there is actually a disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia. I won’t go into details, suffice it to say that without the ability to sleep, humans suffer increasing debilitation and even death (with FFI, death is between 6 and 30 months). So sleep is really important.
Most of us can relate to pulling an all-nighter or staying up late then feeling sluggish and grumpy the next day. Some of us know what it’s like to have chronic pain or a noisy neighbor dog that wakes you up several times in the night, leaving you drained in the morning. LARK seeks to help improve your sleep situation.
The LARK system has two parts: the wristband and the LARK Up app. When you’re ready to go to bed, set the alarm in the LARK app on your iDevice, demount the LARK wristband from the charging base and put it on. The wristband contains an accelerometer that registers when you are “awake” based on movement. Your brain and body are in a much shallower sleep state (almost conscious) when you shift position. This is normal and necessary for healthy sleeping. Not convinced? Have you ever fallen asleep in a strange place and awakened in the same position you fell asleep in? Do you remember how sore and stiff you were? That’s because your body couldn’t shift and ease the pressure points or let different muscle groups relax completely.
“That’s all well and good, but how does Lark help me?” Good question. The LARK system keeps track of your sleep habits:. When you go to bed, how long does it take to get to sleep, how often do you wake up, how long do you sleep, etc. It takes this information and, after the first seven days, gives you helpful advice to get better, more restful sleep. For example, if you go to bed at 10:00 and get 8 hours of sleep, but you don’t sleep well, it may recommend going to bed a bit earlier, or changing what activity you engage in just before going to bed. Small changes in what we eat, drink or do can make for significant improvements in sleep quality. My seven day evaluation recommended moving my bed time back by 30 minutes and to try to get to bed as close to the same time as possible. The program has noted a reduction in the number of times I wake up during the night, so I guess it is working.
Since there are two versions of the LARK program lets lay out the costs and benefits. LARK standard is the wrist band and app with the ability to set alarms and track sleep data. This version is $99.00. LARK Pro gives you everything LARK standard has plus an on-line “sleep coach” for one year: this version is $159.00. If you have started with the basic version and want more, the Lark Sleep Coach Upgrade costs $60.00. As for the hardware, the LARK unit (purchased online at www.lark.com) includes the wristband, charging base and power cord, and a USB to iDevice connector. While you wear the wristband you can plug in your iPhone or iPod touch and charge all night while it functions as the clock for the alarm system. Even if you don’t plug in your iDevice, keep it close because the wrist unit and iDevice communicate via Bluetooth and, as Sheldon said, “Everything’s better with Bluetooth.”
The LARK Up app is available on the iTunes store for free. You will need to provide an e-mail address for the system. This will get you registered and provide log-in verification/access to your sleep evaluation data and sleep coach advice.
Now for the hard part: recommendations. If you are having sleep issues LARK may be able to help you. The silent alarm concept is great for those who would rather not disturb their spouse and let him/her get some extra sleep while you get up and start your day. The wrist unit is comfortably effective at rousing you gently from sleep. For the dubious, there is a backup beep if the vibrations don’t rouse you in either two or five minutes.
For those motivated to do a little research, there is plenty of advice readily available on the web or at your local library regarding sleep, so I’m not sure $159.00 is quite justified. The unit will keep track of information that would be difficult or impossible to record (to wit, how many times you are “awake” during the night).
I can therefore only give this one a 4 out of 5 rating, but if you have the budget and want some of the conveniences of having the app keep track of the data for you, it can actually help improve your quality of life by helping you get better sleep. The hardware is of descent quality and the program provides some very useful information. If you think $159.00 is a bit too much, be ready to do a little reading and experiment a bit and you may be able to get about the same benefit for free (minus your research time).
Either way, go to bed and get some sleep…you really do need it.