Pokémon Sleep has gamified my terrible sleep for the better cover image

Pokémon Sleep has gamified my terrible sleep for the better

Struggling to sleep? The Pokemon Sleep app/game can help structure sleeping habits while working that Pokemon magic.

"Hey, remember to feed Snorlax!" I hear my wife shout from across the house. It's two in the afternoon and it's once again time to log into Pokemon Sleep and feed the literal beast. Released this month and meant as one-part game and another part sleep app, Pokemon Sleep would be easy to ignore. After all, it's not the mobile sensation experience of Pokemon Go, nor is it a full-fledged health application.

But what it does have is my favorite Pokemon starring in a Tamagotchi-like experience meant to make us more mindful of how, when, and why we sleep. Considering that I've spent the last two years getting the worst sleep of my life, I'm more than willing to try anything. As it turns out, this simple app has made me think about my own habits in a real way.

But it's also worked that wonderful Nintendo magic of turning my bad sleep into something improved through gamification.

Better health through (Pokemon) sleep

Pokemon Sleep sees you, a budding Pokemon researcher, venture to a magical set of islands full of Snorlax. Yes, that is the dream. It's here that you'll take care of your new, gigantic buddy week-by-week. During the day you'll feed him with the help of your own Pokemon squad that brings you ingredients and berries. In turn, you'll cook meals for your Snorlax and increase his size.

However, your helpers get tired. Then, night comes and it's time to get Snorlax to bed. It's here that Pokemon Sleep uses your actual sleep data--accomplished by either placing your phone face-down on your mattress or with a special sleep tracking device--to power up your Snorlax. Generating "drowsy power," you are scored each night based on your sleep, as well as your sleep habits. Got to bed on time? Bonus points! Slept especially well? More Pokemon show up the next morning, asleep around your Snorlax and able to be "caught" by feeding them treats.

Honestly, it's a fantastic system that drips of the same unique gamification as Pokemon Go. Much like how that game got you out into the world and walking, Pokemon Sleep gets you thinking about your bed habits, but through the lense of your Snorlax's wellbeing.

Snorlax says "Go to bed"

Of course, the crux of the Pokemon Sleep app is that it is only as effective as you allow it to be. Sure, you can cheat the system and break the rules. However, that isn't the point. Yes, the game part of the game is there, but to get the most out of Pokemon Sleep it requires you to play along. In that sense, I've found that it's helped my own terrible sleep habits immensely in just a few weeks.

I started my career as a midnight shift crime reporter. Because of that, my sleep has never really recovered from working a 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. shift. But in general, a combination of the pandemic, getting older, depression, and more has led me to the worst sleep of my life. Doctors visits, sleeping pills, and even a short-lived CPAP experience all brought me nothing.

<em>Pictured: A video games journalist at a sleep study that accomplished nothing.</em>
Pictured: A video games journalist at a sleep study that accomplished nothing.

And yet, the week that my family finds us at our most stressed via moving is when I've seen Pokemon Sleep truly help.

The evolution of sleep

It sounds like a dumb thing, but the reminders to care for this big ole Snorlax and to check in have made me more mindful. Fun facts about the science of sleep pop up throughout the app as you do the typical Pokemon game acts. Leveling up a team, collecting candy, evolving Pokemon. It's all there, but in service of getting the player to think about how sleep factors into our lives.

My wife and I have even found ourselves helping one another with reminders. More than a few times I've heard her remark that Snorlax is telling her to get to bed. But, a more impressive change is that we both now do something in the morning to get our day started. Each day I wake up, roll over, get my Snorlax up, and check what Pokemon came to visit me in the night.

Not only has it formed a ritual, but it's giving me a reason to focus and not just fall back asleep. And if we're being honest, I'm getting more quality sleep in the last two weeks than I have in two months. Not only can I visually see it on the screen when the game shows me my sleep data, but I see it in my own habits.

I'm now waking up in the morning and actually excited to see what Pokemon visited in the night. It's fun sharing what recipes I've cooked up for my Snorlax with my wife. It all seems like small things, but at the same time it all adds up.

Sleep tight

I don't know if I'll stick with the game on the long-term. After all, it is a mobile game and with it come all of those microtransaction and subscription pass trappings. However, in a time when my life has been its most hectic I've found solid ground with Pokemon Sleep and my Snorlax friends. After all, when Snorlax says that it's time for bed you should probably take his advice. After all, he's a professional.

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