Gro Clock - nightlight & sleep timer

Adding structure to sleep.

Added on Saturday 19 March 16

I’ve always had trouble sleeping. It’s a pretty common challenge for autistic people in general.

For me, it’s basically impossible for me to sleep when home alone. I get stressed and anxiou. I then either have a panic attack or end up spaced out and unable to do much the following day.

I find routines really helpful. They reduce anxiety by increasing sameness and predictability.

I have a morning routine and an evening routine but I don’t have a good overnight routine.

The purpose of the Gro Clock is to help provide a nightlight and easy to use visual overnight routine. It’s aimed at younger kids, but it works well for me too.

How it works.

When I got to bed I activate the clock and a sun appears on a yellow background. It winks and then fades out to be replaced by a star with 12 little stars around the outside all on a blue background.

This is the start of my routine. At this point my night time rules apply. I am not allowed to leave my bed or access the web via a browser. I am allowed to watch videos and write using an iPod touch I brought for this purpose but i am now allowed my phone or laptop.

Slowly as the nigh passes the stars fade away. And then at 8:30am all the stars are gone and it shows a sun and goes yellow.

At this point I start my morning routine.

How it helps.

It’s a very simple system but it works really well. By giving me a countdown as the night progresses it acts as a glue between my routines and introduces structure.

I can glance at the display whenever I wake and see if it’s time to get up yet by checking the colour. I can get an idea of how long is left by how many stars are left.

I wake lots during the night. Most nights i fall asleep after 3 stars then wake up every 2 stars or so untill morning.

The clock sits inside my enclosed bed so the smooth design is useful. I often face it down during the night if i want less brightness.

Room for improvement.

The clock is good but it’s not perfect. It could be improved with the following changes:

Better contrast.

At lower brightness settings the contrast between the graphics and the background is very low. This means that unless I am about 4 inches away from display I can’t read it.

Simpler Buttons.

It’s really confusing to use. I would love 3 buttons. One to set it for a nap, and one to set it for overnight.

Nap timer.

Thinking of a nap, it would be way more useful if I had the ability to do a simple timed nap. I can do a daily nap but only for one specific time per day.

It would be great if I could set it for an hour and then use the same process to check the times progression.

Final thoughts.

I really like the Gro Clock. I don’t have any light in my bedroom so it provides a reference for evening and morning.

It’s certainly improved my sleeping and it’s also providing quantifiable information about my sleep pattern which is an unexpected but welcome bonus.

Even though it’s aimed at kids I think it’s really useful to autistic people like me. It provides a structure thought the night and with it a calmer and more relaxing sleep.


Spaced Out & Smiling is about exploring the fun side of Autism, and trying to understand what it means to be Autistically Happy.

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