Your average sleep tracker isn't terribly exciting. Or at least, not exciting enough to entice your average teen or tween to head to bed at a reasonable time, or wake up excited to dig into their sleep stats. That looks set to change with Pokémon Sleep, a new sleep-analysis game announced last week.
Pokémon Sleep is part of the company's ongoing quest to turn everyday pursuits into entertainment. It promises to do for sleep what Pokémon Go did for... er... walking around outside, and is scheduled to hit Android and iOS app stores this summer.
You place your phone next to your pillow, and the app will record and analyze your sleep efforts, based on your movements. In the morning, your slumber skills will be rated and the game will reward you by showing you which Pokémon your sleep style is similar to. Over time you can unlock new Pokémon sleep styles. You can get a taste of how it works in the intro video below.
It's being billed as a game – the conceit is that you're helping Professor Neroli and Snorlax research the way Pokémon sleep – but essentially what we're looking at here is a sleep tracker for tweens and teens. And while there's potential for positive effects here, I'm not without my reservations.
The main issue is that Pokémon Sleep introduces a competitive element that isn't necessarily conducive to better sleep. In fact, it can have the opposite effect, creating stress that'll keep you up for longer. That's why, if you're struggling to drop off, sleep coaches will advise against anything that creates more pressure – they'll tell you to avoid clock-watching, or even encourage you to get up and leave the bedroom and do something relaxing elsewhere until you start to feel tired.
In fact, there's even a sleep disorder linked to the use of sleep trackers: orthosomnia. The idea is that our obsession with achieving the perfect sleep 'score' on our trackers might actually be making us to sleep worse (there's research to back it up (opens in new tab)). And that's in emotionally mature adults. Pokémon Sleep looks to introduce sleep tracking at a much younger age.
That teen and tween audience raises another potential issue. While the majority of adults aren't gathering around the water cooler to compare their sleep data in the mornings, if Pokémon Sleep takes off, chances are that tweens and teens are going to end up competing against each other. Factor in that delightful peer pressure element, and Pokémon Sleep starts to look the opposite of relaxing.
I'm not saying it's necessarily an entirely bad thing. There's no doubt that gamification can be a very effective way to coach people into new, healthier habits or encourage them to do things they don't really want to do. Pokémon Go got a whole generation of super-online teens to leave their dingy bedrooms and get out into the great outdoors (for a short while at least).
Good quality sleep has massive benefits across the board for our general wellbeing, helping with everything from learning to physical performance to mental health. Despite all of those being relevant to growing teens, it's probably not enough to make your average 13 or 14 year old make their sleep a priority. Anything that has potential to get teens to improve their sleep habits is worth at least considering.
One final element that gives me pause is that it's a mobile app, and another reason for someone to be checking their phone directly before bedtime. It's widely accepted that evening screen-time has a detrimental impact on sleep – although, admittedly, you might be onto a losing battle trying to get a teen to down-screens an hour before bedtime, as per the 10-3-2-1-0 sleep rule (most adults don't even achieve this).
The company has considered this, it seems, and is making Pokémon Sleep compatible with the new Pokémon GO Plus + accessory. Scheduled to launch on 14 July 2023, this screen-free gadget sits next to your pillow and connects to your phone app via BlueTooth. It'll launch sleep tracking with the push of a button, and comes with a Pikachu voice that'll sing you lullabies, and tell you when it's time to wake up or go to sleep.
For more information Pokémon Sleep, head to the Pokemon website (opens in new tab).