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iPhone App Review: Proactive Sleep

iPhone App Review: Proactive Sleep

March 29th, 2010 by

Tracking sleep habits is one of those things I have always wanted to do. It’s kind of lack tracking eating habits, except I’ve never really wanted to do that. By tracking your bedtime, wake-up time, and nightly interruptions, over time you should develop a more realistic idea of how health your sleep behavior is for you.

Proactive Sleep, by developers Proactive Life, aims to help you track this data simply and efficiently; as well as providing you with the means to assist you in falling asleep and waking up each day.

Opening screen, nicely done.

Quick Overview

Proactive Sleep has several tabs, only three of which are actually devoted to the regular use of the app. The starting tab is Alarm, which is naturally enough where you set the alarm and then put the app into data collection mode. You may also choose to wake naturally rather than use an alarm.

The next tab is the sleep diary, where all of your data is collected and may be viewed, edited, and deleted. The third tab is the settings tab. Here you can choose what music to wake up to, whether to do the wake-up “Proactive Game” to test your morning mental alertness, what your nightly sleep goal should be, and whether or not the app should play soothing sounds or music to help you fall asleep.

The last two tabs are simply and email link for sharing the app with a friend, and and info page with instructions on using the app and useful links on the topic of sleep itself.

My Experience With Proactive Sleep

I used the app for several days as my only alarm clock, and my experience is a bit mixed. Although I have some suggestions for streamlining the app’s interface my main problems were with the area of data gathering, which in a data gathering app may not be such a great thing.

First of all, despite a few interface quirks I found the app very easy to use and fairly intuitive. It has very useful features and the tabbed organization works well; I don’t know why more developers don’t do this.

I don't get much sleep, ok?

There are essentially two taps used in normal operation of the app: you tap to tell it “I’m going to sleep now”, then again to tell it “I’m awake now.” This is simple efficient and is exactly the way the app should be (considering that you’ll be attempting those taps when you’re at your least alert). The app then tracks the time you went to sleep and the time you woke up.

The problem is that the sleep diary, after having used it for several nights, just cannot be trusted. Looking at my screenshot notice two oddities: one is a missing night of data for Tuesday March 23. I have no idea where that went, though I’m willing to concede that I may somehow have accidentally deleted it. The real problem is at the top, Saturday March 27. There’s nothing there.

Here’s the tale of Saturday:

I got home late and got to sleep after midnight.The next morning, after telling the app I was awake, I saw that blank entry in the diary. “Bummer,” I thought. So come Sunday evening when I’m getting ready to sleep again, I see that there are now TWO Saturdays; one as you see here with no data, and another with the proper sleep data. Come Monday morning, however, the Saturday with the data is gone again and I’m left with an entry that has no sleep information, and also, did I mention this, cannot be deleted?

The app also has a useful feature where you can tap during the night to inform it that you have had a temporary wake-up. Nice, that would seem to be information you want to track when gathering data about your sleep. Notice how on Wednesday March 24 I have manually entered a note about waking up at 330a? I informed the app of that wake-up by tapping the proper button, but have no idea where that information goes, so I had to enter it in the notes field on that day’s entry.

Turning to the notes entry, I think this is a great feature. You can take short notes on the night’s rest while it’s fresh in your mind, but heed this warning: do not press return when you are finished typing your note. Pressing return, at least on my device, exits edit mode and saves your note text, then reduces your amount of sleep by several minutes. What? That’s right, even if you don’t type or change anything in the note, hitting “Return” on the pop-up keyboard while adjust your sleep time downwards. So, you know, avoid that. You can manually adjust the sleep time up or down if this happens, but it’s annoying and potentially renders your data worthless if you don’t know that it’s happening.

The app itself in my opinion is also missing a couple of critical features: exporting your sleep diary, and a detailed edit screen for each diary entry (something similar to editing a “task” inf your typical to-do app).


  • Great idea and efficient app layout.
  • Tracks sleep habits vs actual goal, and calculates lots of useful statistics like average bedtime, average sleep time, and relative consistency of bedtime and nightly sleep amounts.
  • Tons of info on the science of sleep and the app itself, rendered through an HTML tab with many links. Presumably this can be updated at any time since it’s web-based.


  • Has several data-collection bugs, which is not great for a data-collection app. The data gathered cannot be 100% trusted
  • Missing email sleep diary export, which locks the sleep diary into your phone. Given how fast and loose this app plays with the data that does not fill me with confidence.

Bottom Line

As far as recommending this app, I’ll have to let you read the review and decide for yourself. They need to work out the bugs, add the sleep diary export feature, and also implement a few random tweaks that would enhance the usability of the app

  • You need a way to test the alarm volume within the app, especially since volume on the music tracks in your library may vary from song to song.
  • Need a more detailed and robust diary-entry edit screen
  • If I wake up before the alarm and tell it I’m awake, the music still plays after I’ve already tapped “Permanently Awake”. I’m awake now, stand down!

I should say that I’m still going to keep using this app, for a couple of reasons:

  • It tracks my sleep mostly, kind of, almost pretty well, which is better than I was doing before or realistically can do with pen and paper.
  • It wakes me up to my choice of music.
  • It’s simple and easy to use.

Proactive Sleep is a flawed app with a brilliant, simple, and well-designed idea. If you want to track your sleep, and think you can work around the implementation flaws until the developers work out the kinks, then give it a go.

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