Sleep Science HQ

Disease Category:
Target Audience: ,

Clinical Relevance
Version: 1.3
Developer: Phase4 Mobile
Review Date: 2016-11-02
Cost: $1.99

Overall App Summary:

SLEEP SCIENCE HQ is a very appealingly designed App both from a visual as well as an auditory perspective (alarm soundscapes) which fails to live up to the “science” in it’s name. It clearly succeeds only as a versatile and aesthetically pleasing “Alarm Clock”. It’s one of a family of Apps aimed at enhancing sleep that utilizes user movement tracking (including FitBit, SleepBot etc) which has not been validated to reflect stages of sleep or amount of sleep. Similarly the concept of “Gentle Wake up” during light sleep upon which this App rests has not been validated to correlate with user well-being, or as the App claims, waking up “feeling refreshed and energized every day!”

The app is useful in that it allows the user to measure the time they are asleep. The data is graphed so visual learners can see it, and there is an alarm built into the system. Having said that, it does not give any guidance on what to do with that information once it is collected and it does not provide information about different stages of sleep. I cannot be emailed or exported easily. Additionally, the concept of waking while in lighter sleep may be inherently flawed and during my experiment of one (i.e. myself), I found it disruptive rather than constructive to waking up. There is also the point that real sleep is dynamic, not static, which this program does not account for. Real sleep cycles can be longer or shorter than the average for a number of internal and external reasons (patient has a shorter sleep cycle at baseline or had a short night of sleep the night before). While this app is relatively straightforward and easy to use (despite slight awkwardness to the interface), there are other apps with more functionality.


App’s Intended Use:

The app is intended to measure the amount of time a user sleeps each night and to facilitate waking at the “ideal” time by detecting movements that suggest light sleep and then waking the user during these times. The Ad in the App store proclaims: “Wake up feeling refreshed and energized every day! “The (unproven) premise behind the Apps’ design is that a more gentle, gradual wake-up alarm using pleasing natural soundscapes, during a period of light sleep enabled by the “smart alarm” utilizing smartphone movement sensing will result in feeling more alert, and better rested upon awakening. Sleep diary/notes, logs, and trend graphs helps the user keep track of factors and changes that affect sleep.


Who’s this app most useful for?

Patients who want to know more about their sleep patterns and/or patients that want to wake up more gently to pleasant natural sounds and interested in tracking and trending their sleep duration though not necessarily with validated accuracy.


How should use it?

To begin, one must open the App, set wake-up time, thresholds for “early wake up” during final period of light sleep, then actually lay the phone next to you in bed in order for it to track one’s movements, and leave the App open all night. Functions allow one to; wake up more gently to pleasant natural sounds, to track ones sleep activity as well as to log via a diary external or internal factors which may have impact on your sleep quality or duration. The App allows one to set a “Sleep Goal” (in hours) that one’s measures sleep activity is compared against over time.


Is the mobile app clinically relevant? Any clinical benefits? How would you use it as a provider?

The best reason to use this App is to have an aesthetically pleasing alarm tone. The clinical relevance of good quality and optimum duration of sleep is incontrovertible with numerous studies demonstrating everything from mood disorders, hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity and early mortality arising from chronic sleep deprivation. However there is no evidence that this App can improve sleep quality or duration. There is also no evidence available that users feel better rested or more alert upon awakening. Finally, there is no validation of motion detection as an accurate method for measuring sleep duration or quality. It may help patients become more aware of the actual amount of time they spend sleeping each day.


Is there any published evidence that the app actually works?

No evidence; could not find any publications re: any testing/ validation of app.


Regulatory Compliance

Not applicable.


What is the most important/ desirable feature of the app?

Sleep Science HQ has the right amount of functionality for it’s stated purpose. Graphs hours asleep, portion of time asleep, and average hours of sleep. 

The App focuses on three things:
* Gentle wake up during light sleep, 0-30min before your alarm time, with natural sounds made up of a huge library of live stereo recordings of rain, streams, ocean waves, etc.. from around the world. This is clearly the most valuable feature.

* Tracking measured sleep hours vs a personal sleep goal over time. Results vs this “Desired Sleep Time” are reflected throughout the app, in graphs, readouts, and logs.

• Helping the user keep track of factors and changes that affect sleep with NOTES (diary). These notes can be used to record changes in bedtime routine, exercise, caffeine, etc.

The App does not appear to have any INFORMATIONAL content(as many do) on sleep hygeine or optimization.


If there’s a paid version, is it worth the upgrade?

The free App is sufficiently robust in my opinion, though paid App is inexpensive.  There are two apps, Sleep Science HQ ($1.99) and Sleep Science Alarm Clock (free version). The paid app offers 750 wake up sounds instead of 24, custom wake up sequences of up to 6 sounds instead of 4 fixed sequences, and has no ads. Both apps have all diary/notes, logs, and trend graphs. The only reason to get paid App is if you need a massive number of wakeup sounds to choose from & more complex wake-up sequences.

Security and Privacy

Password: There are no logins, passwords required. In fact it doesn’t appear one can set them up within the App, if one wanted that security. Data can be reset by individual night and all logs cleared within Settings however.
Data Security: "Their Policy states: ""Given the nature of the Internet and the fact that network security measures are not infallible, we cannot guarantee the security of your information. We use encryption to protect sensitive information online. The servers that store your personally identifiable information are housed in a secure environment. Finally, we also make an effort to protect your information off-line."" "
Data Sharing: "Their policy states: ""Phase4 will send personally identifiable information about you to other companies or people when: • We have your consent to share the information; • We need to share your information to provide the products or services you have requested; • We need to send the information to companies who work on behalf of Phase4 to provide a product or service to you. """
Regulatory Compliance: Likely to fall under exemption of FDA regulation as according to Mobile Medical Application guidelines

Ben Kerman

I am Board Certified in Internal Medicine and in Emergency Medicine until 2014 with 30 years of clinical practice and administrative experience. I earned a B.S. in Biology from MIT, and an M.D. from the University of Cincinnati . I completed a Masters Degree in Health Information Technology at Northeastern University in 2015 and plan to become Board Certified in Medical Informatics in December 2016 . I have become focused on Personal Health Informatics (PHI) including the design of Decision Aids and a prototype for a CHF management platform. My involvement in health informatics goes back to 1995 as Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Boston Medical Center where we implemented an electronic patient tracker. As Associate Director of South Shore Hospital’s Hospital Medicine group, I functioned as the hospitals’ defacto medical informaticist working to improve the usability and effectiveness of the electronic health record.

Conflicts of Interest:

Employment: Brigham and Women's Hospital; Consultant/ Advisor: None; Ownership: None; Research: None.

Maulik Majmudar

Dr. Maulik Majmudar is a practicing cardiologist and Associate Director of the Healthcare Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital; and an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He lectures at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in areas of healthcare innovation & entrepreneurship, as well as medical device design and development. Dr. Majmudar started his career as a medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, completed resident training in Internal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and followed by a fellowship in Cardiovascular Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School. You can follow him @mmajmudar

Conflicts of Interest:

Employment: Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School; Consultant/ Advisor: AliveCor, BioFourmis, Cardiogram, EchoSense, Facebook, HUINNO, MC10, Nokia; Ownership: BioFourmis, Cardiogram, HiLabs, Quanttus; Research: EchoSense, GE Healthcare, MIT.

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