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Review of the LARK sleep sensor

I have some pretty weird sleeping habits. Occasionally I’ll wake up and find myself reorganizing shelves, hiding my own clothes or battling imaginary ninjas. You get the idea. So I’ve been intrigued by some of the body-hacking companies which have emerged over the last year. And given my sleep USP, I thought I’d be the best person I know to review LARK, a sleep optimizer backed by Liam Casey’s PCH Accelerator program.

The main LARK component is shaped like a large watch which you strap around your wrist. It’s definitely a higher quality build than some of the other sleep monitors I’ve seen (particularly the Wakemate). Its all-black velcro-webby material also gives you a rather Batman-type feeling when you put it on (however that may just be me). That giddy superhero high was unfortunately brought crashing down to earth when I discovered that it doesn’t actually optimize your waking times but just monitors your sleep patterns instead.

Yes, I should have read the details on the site rather than just the TechCrunch article. But still.

After using LARK for about three weeks, I now have a delightful visualization of how utterly broken my sleep pattern is.  It’s nice to be able to get a proper analytical view of the whole mess. I’m pretty sure that my daytime life generate less activity spikes than my sleeptime.

I just wish there was a bit more to it.

In their defense, LARK also offer a Sleep Coach service which apparently gives me an exclusive 7-day sleep assessment plus a sleep-plan for a $60 annual subscription. I’ll probably buy it just because I’m curious but in a world where I’ve become used to micro-transactions and pay-as-you-need, this definitely feels a bit crude (not to mention potentially sub-optimal from revenue point of view). Really what I’m looking for is more emphasis on the sleep-hacking side of things;

  • Optimal waking time based on sleep rhythms. I’m not sure how difficult this is but am happy to experiment.
  • Anonymous comparison to people within my demographic. Am I actually a sleep lunatic or is this normal?
  • Integration with Google Calendar to calculate sleep (and maybe dietary) requirements versus meeting schedules.

I’m possibly coming across a little negative here-the whole body-hacking space is incredibly exciting and LARK are only beginning their journey. Great foresight by Liam Casey to be involved with this company. It’s genuinely the future.

UPDATE: Julia from LARK dropped me a mail explaining why they don’t wake users before their alarm time:

“First, waking someone up ‘optimally’ so as to reduce morning grogginess requires accurate detection of user’s sleep stages. A wrist device cannot do this well, so it will not be very successful in gauging the right moment. It will often fail to wake you refreshed. Secondly, based on our user testing and feedback, if someone hasn’t gotten enough sleep but their alarm wakes them before they need to get up, most will just go right back to sleep. This defeats the purpose of an ‘optimal’ alarm and will only further fragment the user’s sleep. We want people to get more sleep, not less. Though users may feel less groggy in the morning waking up earlier, getting less sleep over time will further contribute to the negative effects of chronic sleep loss. Even 20 minutes more every morning can make a difference.”