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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Test Run: Sleepytime, a Bedtime Calculator

I’m not a morning person, not even close. Over the years, I’ve devised several systems to get myself out of bed at a reasonable hour in the morning and curb the bouts of chronic oversleeping that have plagued me since high school. But setting multiple alarms proved futile, as did programming automatic wake-up calls. I’ve tried bribing my mom and close friends to call me when they wake up and hidden alarm clocks under the bed to force myself out of it. Nothing has worked for more than a day or two.

But earlier this week, a fellow tech reporter told me about Sleepyti.me, a service that he’s had some luck using.

It’s fairly bare bones, less of a fancy app than more like a nifty Web hack. Its premise is simple. You tell the application what time you’d like to wake up, and it calculates your bedtime. Since most sleep cycles last around 90 minutes, and it is thought to be easier to get out of bed in between those cycles than while in the midst of on, the application counts in 90-minute intervals.

But after testing it out for a few nights, I was surprised to discover that it works relatively well.

One night, for example, I decided I wanted to wake up at 7 a.m. to catch up on e-mail and maybe squeeze in a run before work. I typed in my desired wake-up time and the app told me to get in bed by 11:55 p.m. or 1:25 a.m. Although I was exhausted, it was already 11:30 p.m., and I still had a few more work-related tasks to slog through. I kept myself up until around 1 a.m., and then got ready for bed. The next morning, I woke up naturally around 6:45 a.m. Although I got less sleep, I felt more refreshed than I expected.

Sleepytime is not a new product, although I heard about it only earlier this week. It was created in 2010 and hummed along unnoticed until early this year, said David Shaw, the 24-year-old engineer who created it. In January, the site received 1.6 million visits.

Mr. Shaw, who is the director of engineers at Redsp! in, a computer security company in Santa Barbara, Calif., said he first built the site “as a project for my own use, so that when I had to get up or fall asleep at strange times I didn’t need to do any math in my head.”

The basic concept behind the Sleepytime Web app is not unique to this particular service. It’s been also available in several smartphone applications for Android devices and iPhones. But many of those monitor your sleep activity to analyze your sleep cycles and wake you within a window of time. I preferred the simplicity of Sleepyti.me’s Web interface and not relying on it to replace my pre-set alarms, but more as a guide to structure the end of my day so I could start the next one rested and alert.