Lark debuts "un-alarm" and sleep tracker

Faith Merino · May 24, 2011 · Short URL:

The device tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up with a silent vibration

If your alarm (or your partner’s alarm) has ever sent you leaping out of bed with a jolt of adrenaline that leaves your heart pounding and your pupils dilated, you’re not alone. For some of us, it’s our partner’s alarm that sends us scrambling out of bed like Judgment Day has arrived and we’re not wearing clean underwear. It was that very scenario that prompted Julia Hu to create Lark, the “un-alarm.”

“I saw the negative effects of poor sleep on my boyfriend,” said Hu in a statement. “His sleep habits and alarm clock snoozing started affecting every aspect of my life as well -- my work, our relationship, my mood. I started LARK because better sleep is the easiest way to improve life. Understanding how you sleep is the key to accelerating long-term behavior change.”

Founded in 2010, Lark takes a new approach to the traditional wake-up call. Using a micro-movement wrist sensor that looks like a digital wristwatch, the Lark un-alarm monitors your sleep pattern, including how long it takes you to fall asleep, how many times you wake up in the night, and how long it takes you to wake up in the morning. The wrist sensor works wakes you up with a gentle vibration, working with your iOS device to begin vibrating at the time you set on your alarm. The company says that the wrist sensor will go off on time even if your phone dies in the night, and an audio backup wakes you up if the wrist sensor battery dies or if you take it off in your sleep.

After your first week of wearing the sensor, Lark gives you a seven-day sleep assessment, which provides a comprehensive overview of your sleep patterns and how often you wake up in the night. That leaves the obvious question: So what? What exactly are you going to do with that? I’ll tell you! Lark actually sets you up with a personalized sleep plan via your Personal Sleep Coach, a feature that helps you set and track sleep goals and provides personal mobile and online tips and reminders to help you sleep better.

So the next question is: Does it work? Chances are, if you have trouble sleeping, you’ve probably tried everything, including nasal strips, holistic remedies like melatonin, anti-histamines, and even those totally ineffective alarm clocks that wake you up with alarms that sound like waterfalls or wind-chimes. With prices starting at $129, the Lark wake-up system is a pricey sleep remedy to try without knowing how effective it really is. In a study conducted by Harvard sleep expert Dr. Jo Solet, Lark had a 100% efficacy rate of waking up subjects in all phases of sleep, and users rated the wake up three times more peaceful than a traditional alarm. The company hasn't said whether users report better sleeping patterns as a direct result of using Lark, but if you're the partner of someone with an obnoxious alarm, at least you'll sleep better since you won't be rudely awakened by a harsh, grating beeping sound half an hour before you were planning to get up.

Currently, some 60 million Americans have an undiagnosed sleeping disorder, and more than a third of Americans say their partner’s sleep habits affect their relationship. Lark was developed by Harvard sleep expert Dr. Jo Solet, and professional sports sleep coach Cheri Mah, who works with NBA, NFL, and NHL athletes.

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