The increasing popularity of mobile phone technology has paved the way for a great opportunity to collect and analyze information that was previously inaccessible to technology developers, scientists, and clinicians. This information can be used to provide people with personalized feedback on health and fitness. The Proactive Sleep Alarm Clock is a good first step in doing this for sleep, where simply by setting an alarm clock, you can get feedback about your sleep habits and how they are affecting you. Additionally, the app has other features, like ambient music, stimulating tasks in the morning to help with wake up, and being able to set any song in your iTunes as your alarm. The easier it is for people to use these health tracking tools, the better these tools will be at collecting the information that is necessary to understand and predict behaviors that affect mood, diet, sleep, productivity, etc.
Another example of a smart phone applications that provide personalized behavioral feedback by collecting data on an everyday task is the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. The Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock attempts to wake the user up in a lighter phase of sleep by detecting the user's movements. It is important for behavioral modifying applications like to provide accurate feedback that helps promote a better understanding of cyclical behaviors. While the selling point for the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is quite attractive, sleep professionals would agree that no evidence has ever demonstrated that you can wake someone in a lighter phase of sleep by measuring their body movements. Using an electrode, like is the case with the Zeo alarm clock, is a different story, but there are issues in using movements to measure sleep stage because increased grogginess in the morning is due to waking up in deep sleep, yet there can be body movement in both deep sleep and light sleep. Additionally, morning grogginess is not an independent phenomenon, it is directly caused by not getting enough sleep (the homeostatic component) or waking during the trough of your circadian component, i.e. waking up too early. So by improving behaviors related to the homeostatic and circadian component, sleep is improved at its core, which can in turn decrease morning grogginess.
The Proactive Sleep Alarm Clock, addresses these core components of sleep by providing feedback on sleep amount and sleep consistency. In this application, the user sets a sleep goal and the application provides the feedback on how well the sleep goal is met. Similarly, the user gets information on the consistency of bedtimes, which can be used to evaluate whether a sleep problem is due to a circadian related issue. However, clearly more work needs to be done to improve this application. Currently, information on sleep amount and sleep consistency is simply displayed to users. Yet what is needed is to predict behaviors and determine how to adjust behaviors related to sleep by analyzing factors that affect aspects of sleep.
The key to effective feedback of sleep related behaviors is to collect data on various different behaviors because behaviors can interact with each other in complex ways. While there are various applications related to sleep, exercise, mood, and diet; no applications have integrated all of these behaviors into a single product. Yet there is an interesting relationship between sleep, exercise, mood, and diet. Awareness of this relationship may lead to healthier decision-making and can be used by clinicians to evaluate mental and physical health.
The use of applications in everyday life is growing exponentially. With over 120,000 applications currently on sale in the app store and over 2 billion applications sold, there is clearly a lot of public attention on improving health and lifestyle using smart phone applications. Applications that integrate everyday tasks with data collection of behaviors have the greatest potential in providing helpful feedback. If the scientific and clinical community embrace these applications, great strides can be made in improving behavioral treatments of health related problems.
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Proactive Life believes that when science meets technology products that are proactive and healthy can emerge. Specifically, we make iPhone applications that people can use to improve their daily lives. Our first application is based on sleep.