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I have a love-hate relationship with Pokémon Sleep

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I have been using Pokémon Sleep for a week. I detest playing it, but I feel physically better than I have in months, so I guess this is my life now.

It’s not that my sleep has improved; it’s that Pokémon Sleep gets me to actually wake up in the morning, rather than hitting the snooze button until the last possible second. The experience of playing Pokémon Sleep in the morning is deeply irritating, but it sure does get my brain awake.

The premise of Pokémon Sleep is that I’m helping a Pokémon researcher to track the sleep habits of various Pokémon. This means that every week, I find a Snorlax and I sleep next to it. (In other words, I leave the app open on my phone while it’s face down next to my pillow as the Snorlax “sleeps” and I sleep.) When I wake up, I find that lots of other Pokémon have also come by to sleep next to the Snorlax, and I take pictures of each of their sleeping positions. After that, they wake up and I can give them treats in order to coax them into being part of my collection; once I’ve given them enough little biscuits or whatever, they join my crew, helping me collect berries that I can feed to Snorlax to increase its “Drowsy Power” (thereby encouraging more Pokémon to sleep nearby).

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An image from Pokémon Sleep depicting a Snorlax sleeping on a circular blanket in the center, with other sleeping Pokémon in the grass surrounding the Snorlax’s blanket

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Image: The Pokémon Company

This entire experience involves a lot of tapping my finger on my phone. First, I tap on sleeping Pokémon to take pictures of them before they wake up. Once that mindless chore is done and the Pokémon have woken up, I tap on them again to get them to give me berries for Snorlax. Then I tap on all the berries, which float magically into a collection basket. Why does this process involve tapping so many times? I don’t know. It’s annoying. But it sure does wake me up!

The process is, of course, not done yet. I have to tap on Snorlax in order to cook breakfast for it. This involves choosing a recipe and waiting for it to cook. I also have the option to cook Snorlax lunch and dinner at other times of day, but who has the energy for that shit? Snorlax is lucky to get breakfast out of me, especially before I’ve had any myself!

A screenshot of Pokémon Sleep depicting Professor Neroli, the sleep researcher who invites you to submit Pokémon sleep data. He’s wearing a lab coat over a blue shirt and khaki pants, and he’s holding a clipboard in one hand and some papers in the other

Image: The Pokémon Company via Play Gamez

As if all of that weren’t enough phone-tapping for one morning, I then have to tap through various menus to level up my Pokémon, as well as spend the sleep points that I’ve earned overnight to buy more treats and incense to lure more Pokémon into my clutches. By the time I’m done with all of that, it’s been five to 10 minutes, and I’m annoyed but also wide awake.

My sleep is the same as it’s ever been, except now I’m not dozing until I absolutely have to get up, because I’m too busy clicking on these stupid little Pokémon. That means I’m waking up on time to exercise before work starts — something I successfully did every single day last week, and again this morning. Morning is the only time I ever exercise, since I can never get myself to exercise after work; by that point, the pull of cuddling my girlfriend while playing video games on the couch is just too strong. By exercising in the morning, I get it out of the way, and then I feel great for the entire rest of the day.

Pokémon Sleep does not do a particularly good job at tracking my sleep. It’s not a very good alarm clock, either. I already have a Fitbit that I wear on my wrist, which does a significantly better job at both sleep tracking and alarm setting (not to mention tracking my exercise, which up until recently was, admittedly, much more sporadic). I tried Pokémon Sleep because I was curious about how it would stack up compared to other sleep apps I’ve tried (poorly), and also how it would hold up as a game (annoying but effective).

Like I said, I hate playing Pokémon Sleep. But here’s the thing: Playing it wakes me up. I’m not happy that this is working. But I have to admit that exercising every day has felt amazing. A lot more amazing than playing Pokémon Sleep, but I can’t deny the impact.

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