In yet another examination of a health tracking system, we spent the past couple weeks wearing and using the Lark sleep system ($99) to see how it works and how we like it. Lark is a soft wristband tracker that is worn during the night to track your sleeping patterns and gently wake you (and not your partner) with a unique vibrating alarm. The wristband works via Bluetooth and all of your sleep data is automatically sent to the free LarkUp app on your phone when you wake in the morning. The Lark wristband also comes with a docking station for charging that can also hold and charge your phone while you sleep.
We gave the Lark system a thorough testing so we can now give you the details on what we liked about it, what we didn’t, and whether we think this device is worth your time overall. For starters, we’ll tell you a little bit more about the goal of lark and what the system includes. Wearing the Lark armband while you sleep allows for two important things. First, the wristband uses Bluetooth technology and a micro motion sleep sensor to record important sleep stats and then transfer them wirelessly to the LarkUp app on your iPhone. Secondly, the wristband uses a unique vibrating alarm to gently nudge you from your sleep without waking your partner.
The sensor information translates into a visual actigraph within the app that shows when you were falling asleep, when you were asleep, when you were in deep sleep, etc. The app also gives you basic stats when you wake up like how long you slept, how many times you woke during the night, and how long it took you to fall asleep. These factors translate into a numeric score from 1-10 that is meant to give you an idea of whether you are getting enough sleep or not. Each morning you will see those stats and your numeric sleep score, and the app will ask you if you feel well-rested, fairly good, so-so, tired, or awful. By using those descriptors as well as adding tags each morning like woken by someone, noise, sick, racing mind, caffeine, stress, or others, users can start to see patterns in sleep behavior and how their sleep is affected by lifestyle factors.
The program also offers a 7-day sleep assessment, after which you can see “coaching” from Lark that may guide you toward a better night’s rest. The assessment will give you two different labels (mine were Rookie and Night Lark) and provide information and coaching based on which category you fit into. We made sure to get through the entire 7-day sleep assessment to give you the rundown on every part of the Lark system.
First we will say that we were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the wristband is and how much we liked the silent vibrating alarm. The wristband is soft all over and uses velcro to stay put. It essentially feels like wearing a slightly oversized watch to bed, except that this one is covered in soft fabric. While it may be different for other people, we didn’t find wearing the Lark wristband bothersome at all. When woken by the silent vibrating alarm, we noticed that we ended up much more alert more quickly and almost never pressed the snooze button, which is a feat. We also definitely felt less of the adrenaline rush you get when you jerk awake to turn off your blaring alarm. Overall it was a much more pleasant wake-up experience.
We also really like the app design and ease-of-use. As soon as you turn the alarm off, you are presented with a colorful page of sleep stats and it’s quick and easy to mark how you feel that morning and add any tags. Within the app, users can set multiple alarms, look at their entire sleep history, see summary stats for the last week, 30 days, or overall, and get coaching once they’ve completed the 7-day sleep assessment. The clock feature of the app is a nice addition as well. The charging dock has a USB plug and a nice little spot to place your iPhone while it’s charging at night. We like that you can integrate charging your phone into the Lark charging dock, and the large, dimming clock display works perfectly with an iPhone placed horizontally.
We always find it interesting to look at sleeping statistics, but it takes a fair amount of time to be able to establish any patterns that you can change. We didn’t personally see anything that should be drastically changed other than trying to sleep a little bit longer, but others might realize that they wake up too often in the night because of noise or too early because of light. If that’s the case, well Jane or John Doe might think about trying to wear ear plugs or buying some blackout curtains to improve their sleep quality. These are valuable things to learn.
Our experience with the 7-day sleep assessment was a little less than we had hoped for. Our sleep types were identified as Rookie and Night Lark, but the information and recommendations didn’t seem very personalized. It was good advice, sure, but we could have guessed that Lark might tell us to go to be 30 minutes earlier, consider taking a power nap during the day, and make our bedroom darker. These factors would probably improve anyone’s sleep, no matter what category they fit into. Nonetheless, we liked that you can set “targets” within the app for what time you want to get to bed (you can even give yourself a reminder notification), what time you want to get up, and how many hours you want to get each night.
Our only other gripe with the system is that it doesn’t include any type of “smart alarm” to wake you at the most optimal time in your sleep cycle within a certain range of your set alarm. Many apps and devices do this already, so it would make Lark even more appealing if they used the sleep sensor information to help wake you when you are sleeping the lightest in the morning, instead of at the same time every day, which could be during deep sleep. Even without that feature, however, we found ourselves feeling more rested when Lark woke us than other times when we have tried devices or apps that include “smart alarms.”
While we would love to see the addition of a smart alarm feature and some improvement on the 7-day sleep assessment, we were very pleased overall with the Lark system. It was not too cumbersome or annoying to use on a nightly basis, we loved the gentle vibrations in the morning, and the app is well-designed to show off the data that Lark collects. We also really liked that we could integrate our phone charging cord into the Lark dock and set it up as a nice digital clock. The price tag is reasonable compared to other similar systems we’ve seen as well. This would be a great investment for anyone who wants to avoid waking their partner with a blaring alarm, learn more about their sleep patterns, or make an effort to improve their sleeping habits.