Pokémon Sleep hands-on preview: This may be what gets me into a healthy sleep pattern

Snorlax stuffed animal with Pokémon Sleep app.
Snorlax stuffed animal with Pokémon Sleep app. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

As I awoke to the unfamiliar morning alarm coming from Pokémon Sleep and pushed the poofy hotel blanket off, I couldn't help but wonder what the app had in store for me. I was excited, you see. Curious to know which Pokémon had appeared on the phone that I had been loaned overnight. To my utter delight, I discovered several favorites — Squirtle, Pichu, Geodude, Doduo, and Larvitar — all in various sleeping positions and looking cute as hell. I started the morning with a smile.

Strangely enough, I then did something I never do. I found myself looking forward to getting a decent night's sleep that night. Granted, this was in the hopes that I could find more Pokémon, but it's a good thing nonetheless.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had really bad sleep habits. Plagued by insomnia in high school and now frequently visited by strange nightmares that lead to sleepwalking, I don’t often get a full night’s rest or even want to. It's not uncommon for me to stay up ridiculously late and go to bed every night between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. and still get up by 7:30 a.m.

After having spent some time with this upcoming app developed by The Pokémon Company, I can say it is by no means perfect. However, it is very charming, and having something in my life that actually incentivizes me to go to bed at a good hour might be the thing that finally makes me develop better sleep habits.

App Store (iOS)

Pokémon Sleep

Get into a better-sleeping routine by having this app track your daily sleep and evaluate how well you rested. Players are rewarded with Pokémon encounters every morning and can add additional pocket monsters to their team over time. It makes you excited about sleeping well.

Pre-register at: App Store (iOS) | Google Play (Android)

This sleep-tracking concept might feel out of place for a Pokémon game, but it really isn't when compared to other Pokémon games in the mobile space. The popular Pokémon GO is what I consider one of the best free iOS games and it is designed around getting people outside and walking.

Meanwhile, Pokémon Smile is an app that encourages people to brush their teeth. Pokémon Sleep is simply the latest iOS and Android app designed around developing healthy habits in people of all ages. 

A typical night with Pokémon Sleep

Pokémon Sleep screenshots with Pokémon GO Plus Plus device. (Image credit: iMore / The Pokémon Company)

As I alluded to earlier, during a Pokémon Sleep hands-on event hosted at a hotel in Santa Monica, California, I was loaned a phone with a preview build of Pokémon Sleep on it and was allowed to use the app overnight. Just note that since this was a preview build, the artwork, prices, and mechanics might not be the same as at launch. 

The app kicks things off by introducing you to Professor Neroli, who has discovered a string of islands filled with various Snorlax that have a strange Drowsy Power, which draws in other Pokémon and puts them to sleep around it. He wants your help documenting the Pokémon that appear and the sleeping positions they show up in.

Professor Neroli goes on to explain that each week, players are tasked with raising a specific Snorlax, and each morning after a sleep session is recorded, up to five Pokémon appear around that Snorlax. Sometimes you can even add these creatures to your Pokémon team. Once the week wraps up, it's time to move onto another island with a different Snorlax, which could open up new sighting possibilities. After I learned all of this, it was time to actually test the app out.

Before turning out the light for the night, I informed Pokémon Sleep when I wanted my target bedtime to be, and specified when I wanted to be woken up the next morning. I then told the app to start my sleep session and placed the borrowed phone plugged in and lying face down on the mattress next to me. I had been told that the phone needed to be on the bed in order to sense me and my movements through the night. This was a little odd since I'm used to keeping my phone on a nightstand so I don't knock it off the bed, but it was also easy enough to accommodate. 

If you don't like the idea of keeping your phone on the bed, you might want to get the optional Pokémon GO Plus + accessory, which releases on July 17, 2023. In addition to helping you play Pokémon GO, it can be used in place of your phone during Pokémon Sleep to rest on the bed next to you and record your sleep data. Using it also unlocks an adorable Nightcap Pikachu in Pokémon Sleep who gets added to your team as an extra team member than the usual five you're limited to. 

I got to hold the Pokémon GO Plus +, which is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and speaks with Pikachu's voice.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

What's more, the accessory speaks softly in Pikachu's voice to remind you when to go to bed or tell you when to wake up. Full functionality between Pokémon GO Plus + and the Pokémon Sleep preview build wasn't available at the time of the event, but I was able to handle this device in person and got to hear the adorable Pikachu voice singing lullabies. It's ridiculously cute.

Speaking of cute things, there is a lullaby button in the app which when pressed plays the Pokémon Center theme music in a sweet and slow music box style. The loaner phone was too loud for me to get it to a low enough volume, so I ended up turning the music off, but it was still a fun surprise to discover. 

No room for abnormalities like sleepwalking

Pokémon Sleep: Sleep Types and the Pokémon they attract. (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

After using Pokémon Sleep through the night, I awoke and pressed a button to end my sleep session. Then the app launched into a rather lengthy tutorial, so you'll want to make sure you have time to get through everything the first time you use it. 

Here, the app explained that the type of Pokémon that appear around Snorlax depends on what Sleep Type the app classifies you as for the night. There's Dozing, Snoozing, and Slumbering — according to Professor Neroli, "these sleep stages help show how deep your sleep is." I attempted to get more information on what exactly determined these Sleep Types but the representative I spoke to made it clear that this information wasn't supposed to be the focus of the game. However, since Sleep Types determine which Pokémon show up it is going to be something we all care about, quite a bit.

The app categorized my 7.5 hours of sleep data as 5% Dozing, 42% Snoozing, and 53% Slumbering — meaning that, overall, I had a Slumbering Type Sleep Style for the night. Fortunately for me, Slumbering Type tends to draw in Water and Rock types, so I was delighted to find some of my favorite Pokémon when I awoke, including Squirtle. You can sometimes add one of these creatures to your team so they can collect berries to feed Snorlax and make it stronger, thus increasing the chance of getting more interesting Pokémon and rewards to appear. I only saw Gen 1 Pokémon during my time with the app. There are only 100 Pokémon to register at launch, but don't worry. There are plans to add more Pokémon in the future.

Pokémon Sleep has no way to account for irregular sleep tendencies.

Pokémon Sleep gives out better rewards to adult players who get closer to recording 8.5 hours of sleep (11 hours if you're a child) — the extra half hour being when you start the recording before actually falling asleep. Those of us attending the event were told that this goal is based on data the developers learned about when consulting with Director and Professor Masashi Yanagisawa, at the international institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at University of Tsukuba in Japan. The whole point is to get people into healthy habits that are recommended for the average person. So the idea is to encourage people to sleep more.

This is very good for the average person. The problem is, Pokémon Sleep doesn't have any way to account for irregular sleep tendencies. Personally, I think requiring adults to track 8.5 hours of data in order to get a 100% score is odd, especially for people like me who don't need to rest that much. I had the app running for roughly 7.5 hours, but I probably only slept for 5 on account of my usual restlessness. In total, I was only given a sleep score of 65%, and considering how little I tend to sleep, it doesn't seem likely that I'll hit 100% any time soon — even despite my best efforts.

During a Q&A session with Pokémon Sleep Director Kaname Kosugi, preview attendees were informed via an interpreter that the app "evaluates the weekly consistency" so if you stick to six or seven-hour sleep throughout the week you'll still earn Drowsy Power for Snorlax, but probably still won't get a better percentage. All of the other Pokémon Sleep preview attendees I spoke to got between a 45% and an 85% sleep score, showing how elusive that 100% might just be. But maybe this at least gives us all something to aspire to.

Pokémon Sleep screenshots showing Sleep Style Dex and ways to power up Snorlax via cooking.  (Image credit: iMore / The Pokémon Company)

Additionally, being a sleepwalker I don't always stay in my bed at night (thankfully, I did during the preview event sleepover). However, this means that Pokémon Sleep won't always record my data correctly when I do my midnight ramblings. In this way, I wish the Pokémon GO Plus + was a watch or at least had a strap like the original Pokémon Go Plus accessory, that I could attach to my person so it recorded even when I moved around. Alternately, it would be nice if the Pokémon GO Plus + at least communicated with Fitbit or other health trackers to get my full sleep details. 

"Sleep has to be at least 90 minutes long to be counted for research” and “you can (only) track 2 sleep sessions per day.”

During that aforementioned Q&A session with Director Kosugi, I told him via interpreter about how my sleepwalking might lead to incorrect scoring and that I wished there was a way to go in later and fix my score if I actually did get a full night's sleep despite leaving my bed in the night. He responded that this is the first time he heard about "these kinds of needs" and that he "will consider putting those kinds of features in the future."

It's also worth noting that the app isn't meant to be used during naps as “sleep has to be at least 90 minutes long to be counted for research” and “you can (only) track 2 sleep sessions per day.” 

On the subject of privacy

Pokémon Sleep: Snorlax surrounded by various sleeping Pokémon. (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

In addition to telling me my Sleep Type, Pokémon Sleep created a chart displaying my sleep details allowing me to see when I entered into each type of sleep. Though not enabled for the preview build, the launch version will also record any noises you make during the night for you to listen to. I was disappointed to find that you cannot send these recordings to your friends because that would make for some hilarious sharing, but it's possible that this sharing feature isn't there for privacy reasons. 

Speaking of privacy, representatives assured preview attendees that this sleep data gets deleted from the phone after a few days and that all of the sleep data is sent anonymously to the Pokémon Company rather than being tied to any specific accounts. They further went on to explain that the company might do something like share general data for specific areas of the world like saying something like 81% of people in the Americas tend to have Slumbering Sleep Type. But the company won't know details about any specific person.

A reason to keep using the app

Pokémon Sleep rarer sleep styles. (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

I was happy to find that Pokémon Sleep also makes it exciting to see the same Pokémon more than once by tasking players with filling out both a Pokédex as well as a Sleep Style Dex. Each creature has a few different Sleep Styles. For instance, the Doduo that came to me was in the Lookout Sleep style, with one of the bird heads standing sentry while the other dozed away. However, I might come upon another Doduo sleeping in a rarer Sleep Style (signified by a star rating) another morning and be able to add that to my Sleep Style Dex.

But the game isn't done once you wake up. Snorlax is a very hungry Pokémon, and each one has favorite foods that will increase its power more. So you can cook a recipe for your Snorlax using its favorite foods to increase its strength, meaning his ability to attract certain Pokémon. The helper Pokémon on my team gathered berries and other items over time, which can be used to create dishes and power up Snorlax. I simply had to tap on these helpers whenever there was an icon over their heads telling me when they'd gathered anything. 

The longer I waited between tapping, the more items my helpers had collected. Of course, my hard-working Pikachu and Squirtle who gathered berries also needed to be rewarded with Bonus Biscuits, which increase their friendship level with me. The higher my friendship points, the more efficient my helpers are, which means the more I can feed my Snorlax and power it up. 

From what I saw, there isn't much more to the game during the day, but that's a good thing as this app is supposed to help you sleep rather than keep you up late at night using your phone. 

Microtransactions and the future of Pokémon Sleep

Pokémon Sleep: Bonus Biscuits.  (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

I was a little surprised to find that there are microtransactions in Pokémon Sleep, but there definitely are. First off, there's a Premium Pass, which is $9.99 for a 1-Month Plan or $49.99 for a 6-Month Plan. The Premium Pass makes it so you have unlimited sleep data rather than deleting it every few days. You also get a Premium Bonus Biscuit each day, receive 100 sleep points each day, gain access to the Premium Exchange for exchanging sleep points, gain a monthly gift of 1,000 sleep points, get additional lavish rewards, and unlock a diary where you can take notes about your sleep. 

Much like with Pokémon GO, Pokémon Sleep users can also purchase various items in the General Store by spending Diamonds. Diamonds can be earned in the game by interacting with various menus or be given out as rewards for sleeping well. However, they can also be purchased with real-world money. The lowest purchase is 60 Diamonds for $1.19 while the largest purchase is 7,000 Diamonds for $97.99 — that's quite a lot.

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Purchasing items can help you gain different perks. For instance, a Pokémon Box (120 Diamonds) expands storage while an Energy Pillow (60 Diamonds) restores 50 Energy to a single helper Pokémon. From my limited experience with Pokémon Sleep, I wouldn't say that there is any pay-to-win focus. As is the case with Pokémon GO, this new app can easily and effectively be paid for free. There are just some nice perks for people who want to use items. The real win is getting better sleep habits anyway, which you cannot buy.

During the Pokémon Sleep hands-on event, I got the impression that this app could be seeing a lot of changes and updates in the future including more competitive options and tweaks to the main mechanics. One of the things that has helped make Pokémon GO so engaging is that its players can join one of three teams and then compete against each other. This type of competition won't be available in Pokémon Sleep at launch, however, Kosugi explained that "the development team is now considering having those similar types of functions in the future." It's safe to say that we'll likely see several updates come to the app over time that will help it evolve into an even better sleep incentive.

Time to catch some Pokémon ZZZs

There's no denying that I've been thinking about Pokémon Sleep ever since I got to test it out in person. I'm sure it will consistently help me wake up to a smile as I discover the cute positions I find my favorite Pokémon sleeping in. I am excited to check out the full app when it launches.

However, as much as I love the idea behind Pokémon Sleep, I have some reservations about how well it will actually work for people with irregular sleeping issues, like me. Hopefully, updates will come in down the line that makes it more accommodating for a wider range of people. Regardless of that, I'm sure that using this app consistently could help me develop better sleeping habits and encourage me to go to bed at a reasonable hour every night. And that's truly something special.

App Store (iOS)

Pokémon Sleep

Get into a better-sleeping routine by having this app track your daily sleep and evaluate how well you rested. Players are rewarded with Pokémon encounters every morning and can add additional pocket monsters to their team over time. It makes you excited about sleeping well.

Pre-register at: App Store (iOS) | Google Play (Android)

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.