Apple files for a patent for ‘adjusting alarms based on sleep onset latency’

Future alarm clocks on your iOS and watchOS devices may be a bit more “understanding” of your personal needs. Apple has filed for a patent (number 9,826,930) for “adjusting alarms based on sleep onset latency.”

Per the patent, a mobile device — think iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch — can adjust an alarm setting based on the sleep onset latency duration detected for a user of the mobile device. For example, sleep onset latency can be the amount of time it takes for the user to fall asleep after the user goes to bed.

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The mobile device can determine when the user intends or attempts to go to sleep based on detected sleep ritual activities. Sleep ritual activities can include those activities a user performs in preparation for sleep. 

In the patent filing, Apple notes that most folks require a certain amount of sleep at night to feel well rested the following day. Often, when a person works, the person will set an alarm to wake them up at an appropriate time so that they can arrive at work on time. To get sufficient sleep, the person will go to bed at a time that allows for an appropriate amount of sleep (e.g., 7 hours, 8 hours, etc.). 

However, most people don’t fall asleep right away when they go to bed. So, even if the person goes to bed at an appropriate time to provide 8 hours of sleep, the person often only ends up with 6 or 7 hours of sleep when the alarm goes off in the morning. 

Per the patent, an Apple device can determine when the user is asleep based on detected sleep signals (e.g., biometric data, sounds, etc.). In some implementations, the mobile device can determine recurring patterns of long or short sleep onset latency and present suggestions that might help the user sleep better or feel more rested.

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.