You can count me as one of the 30 percent of people who don't get enough sleep every night, so when Lark sent me its silent alarm clock ($100) to test a couple months ago, I was all about it. Since then, I've been using it pretty regularly, here's what I think of the alarm clock.
First, here's what it is: The Lark is part app (compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad only at the moment, but an Android version seems imminent), part motion-sensing wristband that vibrates to wake you up and tracks your sleep quality throughout the night. It promises to both help you wake up more naturally and without disturbing your bedmate and change your personality from sleep-deprived night owl to well-rested morning lark. Included in the package is the Lark sensor, wristband, and charging dock where you plug your wristband into when you wake up — both to shut off the vibrating alarm and ensure that your wristband has enough juice to monitor your sleeping stats for the next night. The charging dock includes a USB port to connect your iPhone charger to it, so you don't have to use two sockets for each.
Who it's for: The Lark is useful if you have a partner and you both wake up at different times. Since it's a silent alarm clock, it rouses you with a series of vibrations through your wristband, so if your normal wake-up call is earlier than your bedmate's, your partner can snooze away without being disturbed. That may or may not be valuable enough for you to justify the $100 price tag, but it is an effective solution. Besides the alarm clock portion, the Lark app tracks several sleeping stats: how many hours you slept as well as how many times you woke up during the night and how long it took you to fall asleep (both based on your movements).
Keep reading for my thoughts on the Lark alarm clock.
What I liked: Seriously, being woken up by the vibration is so much better than a jarring buzzing alarm. The wristband alarm clock, which attaches with Velcro and is fuzzy on the side that touches your skin, is comfortable and never failed to wake me up, and I loved being able to track how I slept the night before. One awesome feature is the fact that you can tag your sleep stats with certain habits so you can see how your pre-bedtime activities directly affected your sleep quality. You can pick from 11 tags ranging from "woken up by someone," "alcohol," "exercise," and "TV/computer before bed"; the app then allows you to compare tags through graphs so you can see which habits are the worst for your sleep. You can also rate how refreshed you feel ("well rested," "fairly good," "so-so," "tired," or "awful") when you wake up, and there's a notes field to write whatever you want to remember about your sleep.
The free app also includes ways to view your sleep patterns by day, week, previous 30-days, and overall. And while the Lark Pro coaching website feature costs an extra $60, you do get a free seven-day sleep assessment with the standard app, after which the Lark will tell you what kind of sleeper you are as well as tips for getting longer and more-restful sleep.
What I didn't like: Although it's billed as a sleep coach, the tips available in the free app, as mentioned above, only include a few general suggestions, like having a bedtime routine or not watching TV right before bedtime. While these are helpful, I felt that they weren't anything I hadn't heard before. And while the Lark vibrating wristband never failed to work for me (there's a soothing-sounding backup alarm clock in the app that will go off at your designated wake-up time if the Lark loses Bluetooth connection with your iPhone during the night), I found that the snooze function worked only every once in awhile; many times when I hit the snooze button an error message would pop up (maybe that's an intentional way for the Lark to coax me out of bed?). Also, at $100, the Lark is a somewhat expensive alarm clock investment.
Bottom line: I'm a sleep-deprived stats fan so I love using the Lark and tracking my sleep patterns. For example, I knew I was a light sleeper but I was amazed to find out that I was waking up over 20 times throughout the night, which made me pay more attention to noise and light pollution that I felt could be affecting me. And while the free coaching advice isn't anything unexpected, I do think the seven-day assessment is worthwhile for being more aware of your sleep personality, and the simple tagging and comparison function can be an, ahem, wake-up call when it comes to seeing just how much your nighttime habits affect how you feel the next day. If you or your partner is sick and tired of being woken up too early, you're not sure why you keep waking up feeling overtired and groggy, or you just can't take your buzzing alarm clock anymore, investing in one of these may be your solution for a good night's sleep.