Sleep Cycle

Understand your sleep
3 mockups of Sleep Cycle screens.

Summary

I have been using Sleep Cycle to track my sleep for the past 2 years. I started using it because I wanted to know if I did, in fact, talk in my sleep (my roommate said I did but I wanted to be sure). Though I downloaded the app for a specific reason, and even paid for the premium subscription, I found that I wasn’t interacting much with the data.

Research has shown that smartphone-based sleep tracking devices could be useful in managing the effects of mental health disorders as they relate to sleep and provide potential opportunities for interventions through personalized and adaptive sleep monitoring. However, the efficacy of such a treatment is dependent on the users’ participation and engagement with the data. 

I set out to create a feature that would encourage users to interact with their sleep data and help them sleep better.

Timeline

4 weeks

Tools

Figma, Miro, Overflow

Role

UX Researcher, UX/UI Designer, Usability Testing

Final Screens

Screen recording of the sleep insights feature

Sleep Insights

The current app interface only provides users with the basic numerical data about their sleep quality. Sleep insights provide users with an interpretation of their sleep data and actionable suggestions to help them improve their sleep health.

Screen recording of the sleep journal feature

Sleep Journal

To inform the sleep insights and help users be more intentional with their days, the sleep journal feature allows users to document the key details of their day to explore how they could affect their sleep patterns. Users can access this journal throughout the day from the app and through Apple Watch.

Screen recording of accessing the sleep journal on apple watch

Apple Watch Integration

Users can access the Sleep Journal on Apple Watch to quickly make note of their mood throughout the day. They can also receive Sleep Insight notifications.

View Protoype in Figma

Sleep science

Learning about sleep

As a neuroscientist and recent college grad, I am quite familiar with sleep deprivation and the ways it can mess with the mind and body. However, research has suggested that sleep tracking using common technology is a viable way to manage one’s mental health for personal and medical purposes.

Brain vector image
  • Integrating sensing technology into smartphones and smart devices for sleep tracking could help manage one’s mental disorders. However, the efficacy of using this technology for mental health treatment depends on users’ long-term engagement. 1,2

    1. Abdullah, S., & Choudhury, T. (2018). Sensing Technologies for monitoring serious mental illnesses. IEEE MultiMedia, 25(1), 61–75. https://doi.org/10.1109/mmul.2018.011921236 
    2. Aledavood, T., Torous, J., Triana Hoyos, A. M., Naslund, J. A., Onnela, J.-P., & Keshavan, M. (2019). Smartphone-based tracking of sleep in depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(7). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1043-y 
  • Heightened anxiety and depression are often the greatest predictors of changes in sleep quality. 3

    3. Guadagni, V., Umilta’, A., & Iaria, G. (2020). Sleep quality, empathy, and mood during the isolation period of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Canadian population: Females and women suffered the most. Frontiers in Global Women's Health, 1. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgwh.2020.585938 
  • Understanding the relationship between sleep and mental health in those with generally healthy sleep habits is important due to the potential to intervene and improve mental health outcomes before they become clinically concerning. 4

    4.  Milojevich, H., Lukowski, A. (2016) Sleep and Mental Health in Undergraduate Students with Generally Healthy Sleep Habits. PLOS ONE, 11(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0156372

user research

Why do people track their sleep?

I interviewed 6 people in their 20s to better understand how and why they track their sleep. Two main themes arose from these conversations:

Mindfulness

Most participants mentioned that they pay attention to their sleep patterns in an effort to manage their mental wellbeing and practice self-care.

Curiosity

They also mentioned that they began tracking their sleep as a way to understand the effects of their sleep on their bodies and how they go about their days.

understanding the users

How do users interact with Sleep Cycle and what do they need to do?

By creating a jobs table and day-in-the-life customer journey map, I could better understand the target user and their goals. Mia Jones exemplifies the target user for this project. She would like to better understand her sleep habits and learn how she can improve her habits in order to take better care of herself mentally and physically.

Jobs to be done table

How might we encourage users to interact with their sleep data in order to better understand themselves and their sleep habits?

The idea for a sleep journal came about during one (of many) Crazy-8 activities when thinking about other apps that help manage one’s health. For example, period tracking apps such as Flo and Clue allow users to note their feelings and activities to better understand the correlations with their menstrual cycle. User-inputted data will also be useful for tailored sleep insights to help users get better sleep.

Wireflow of sleep cycle
I sketched a few layouts to explore how to integrate the feature into Sleep Cycle’s interface before wireframing in Figma. This wireflow outlines the way a user will interact with the sleep journal and set an alarm.

Testing

Does it work?

The goal of testing was to explore whether participants could access the sleep journal feature and discover which interface design they preferred, the original or the redesign. Testing the prototype with 20 users via Maze, all participants were able to access the sleep journal and sleep insights, and I uncovered a few opportunities for improvement.

Simplifying the alarm flow

Participants appreciated being welcomed into the app but found that the additional step to set the alarm was not ideal. Therefore, I rearranged the homepage to include setting the alarm without going to another page.

Straightforward & welcoming UI

There was a 50/50 split in preference over the old UI and my redesigned solution. I incorporated the benefits of both designs into the second iteration; I kept the welcoming homepage and simplified the process for setting the alarm.

Reflection

This project taught me the importance of research and asking the right questions when starting a new project. I spent a lot of time exploring scientific literature on sleep to better understand how to approach this project. However, perhaps my time could have been better spent by talking to more people about their relationship to sleep. Then, perhaps those conversations could lead to even greater insights.

In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in wellness and health tracking apps that help people become more in tune with their bodies. This could be the future of technology and healthcare. If we can better understand ourselves, we could detect our own health issues earlier which could lead to earlier detection and treatment. We use technology to connect with others - through social media, FaceTime, etc - so why not use this technology to connect with ourselves as well.