Pokémon Sleep is a sleep app I wasn’t expecting, and I’m kind of intrigued

A still from the Pokémon Sleep trailer showing Meowth sleeping on someone's bed
(Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

One brand I didn’t expect to crop up this morning, when I was having a look around for fresh sleep-related stories in my capacity as TechRadar's Sleep Editor, was Pokémon. I used to write about video games for a living, and back in the day I could wield a mean Jigglypuff in the original version of Super Smash Bros, but the actual Pokémon games have largely passed me by. Nevertheless Pokémon Sleep absolutely caught my attention this morning, and in a half-fascinated, half-horrified kind of way.

Let’s start with the basics: Pokémon Sleep is a sleep-tracking app, but with Pokémon. You install the app on your iOS or Android device, and put your phone by your pillow when you go to sleep at night (or use the Pokémon GO Plus +, an upcoming Bluetooth accessory); Pokémon Sleep will then monitor your slumber throughout the night and, come the morning, reward you with Pokémon depending on the quality and length of your sleep.

Pokémon Sleep screenshot

(Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

It gets better (especially if you’re bought into the whole Pokémon thing): according to the Pokémon Company, the app will classify your sleep as one of three styles – dozing, snoozing or slumbering – and the Pokémon you get in the morning will be the ones that sleep in similar ways. And, adorably, they’ll come and gather around Snorlax, the original sleepy Pokémon.

Pokémon Sleep screenshot

(Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

All of which sounds fun, and I’ve already heard from one more games-focused colleague who struggles to get a good night’s sleep and is really interested in what Pokémon Sleep has to offer. He even mentioned the potential for gamifying sleep – and that’s where I start to worry a bit.

On the one hand, there’s a definite appeal to a fun alternative to the best sleep apps; one that rewards good sleep habits with delightful digital collectibles, and eventually trains you into adopting a healthy sleep schedule. No argument there.

On the other hand, I remember what happened when Pokémon GO really kicked off, with hordes of people flocking to random places – not always in the most salubrious locations – in hope of catching a super-rare Pokémon, and I can’t help but wonder just what sort of weird and disruptive results a similar Pokémon Sleep craze might trigger.

Pokémon Sleep screenshot

(Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

Because while the Pokémon Company’s promise to turn your sleep into entertainment feels very well-meaning – not to mention its assertion that waking up in the morning will become something to look forward to – I’m not sure, particularly if kids are involved…

Just imagine a younger player going to bed all excited at the prospect of earning a rare new Pokémon in their sleep. They wouldn’t sleep! As our article Why can’t I sleep when I’m tired? explains, if you’re mentally wired when you’re trying to go to sleep, it just won’t happen. And to add insult to injury, after a sleepless night those children would probably be rewarded in the morning with a dozing Magikarp (see, I do know some Pokémon facts).

This explainer video at least suggests that Pokémon Sleep is aimed squarely at adults (although, come on, kids are definitely going to get involved, aren't they?). Another potential (and age-unlimited) worry is that whole 'gotta catch 'em all' aspect of Pokémon; does this mean having to mess with your sleep patterns if you're the sort of obsessive player who absolutely has to catch every single one of them? 

I can definitely relate to that, as my complete set of Vampire Survivors achievements will attest. But I'm hoping that Pokémon Sleep is wired to account for that; it mentions that each Pokémon has a number of different sleep styles, so it seems possible that eventually you'll be able to collect the entire set, however you sleep.

It has to be said that all manner of fitness and health apps already use gamification techniques to galvanize you into action, so I suppose that ultimately this seems like an intriguing (and let's be honest, utterly delightful) approach to fostering better sleep habits; maybe it'll get some gamers rushing out to equip themselves the with the best mattress and best pillows to improve their sleep setup and catch more Pokémon.

Pokémon Sleep is due to launch some time around June or July, so we'll find out more then. 

Jim McCauley
Sleep Editor, TechRadar

Jim is TechRadar's Sleep Editor. A professional writer with over a quarter of a century's experience, Jim has been covering mattress and sleep-related subjects for TechRadar, Tom's Guide and T3 over the past few years, gathering an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the mattress industry along the way. Previously Jim has covered a wide variety of subjects, working widely in the tech and gaming sectors, and more recently covering the design and wellness industries.