Sleep tracking can be one of the most important features of your smartwatch
As part of my running challenge in progress to run or walk nearly 2300 miles in two yearsI have to use smartwatches, fitness trackers, and running watches to account for all the trips I take. Short term? Follow him. Walk to the store? Hit this group. Walk to the toilet? Let’s do these steps.
Where am I?
Column number: 7
Writing date: 05/27/21
Days in: 87
Current location: Stanton, MO
Distance traveled: 364.44 miles
Distance left: 1,913.56 miles
Current tracker: Polar Vantage M2
The only area I haven’t monitored so much with these devices is my sleep. This is partly because large watches can be boring to wear at night; partly because some trackers may not accurately judge when you fold; and also because I just didn’t know what to do with the collected sleep data.
I came to regret this decision, because it turns out that sleep is even more important for training than I thought (of course, I know sleep is important, but I just didn’t know How? ‘Or’ What it is important).
After wearing the Polar Vantage M2 for a few weeks, using it to track runs, long walks and my sleep, I spoke to psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist Dr Meeta Singh, who analyzed my sleep data. Using her expertise in the field, she highlighted some key lessons from my data that I wish I had known earlier.
A parliament of night owls
I am a night owl: someone who is most productive until late at night and struggles to get up early as a result. Having to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. doesn’t change that, although waking up at 7 a.m. is the norm; it just means that I sleep less hours. I thought forcefully changing my circadian rhythm to fit the normal workday was my only recourse – but it turns out it isn’t.
In fact, one of Dr Singh’s first advice was to obey your body clock: “Being a night owl or a morning person is something that is intrinsic. When [sleep specialists] talk to people, we want them to try to sleep according to their body clock. “
It’s not just the hours of sleep that are affected by your circadian rhythm; so is your peak exercise time. “The time of day you exercise really depends on your chronotype,” Dr Singh told me. “There is a certain time during the day when we are biologically wired to be at our best. For someone who goes to bed at 11 p.m. and wakes up at 7 a.m., it’s between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the evening. “
I always knew I was an evening person, but using the Polar watch timing stats helped me determine exactly how much of a night owl I am, and therefore my optimal running times. Turns out right before dinner is better for me – which is a great time to win that pizza.
My sleep data also revealed to Dr Singh that I was chronically sleep deprived. I didn’t get enough sleep on the five days of the week, then compensated for that on the weekends, catching up and getting more sleep.
But it turns out that’s a big ‘no-no’ – according to Dr Singh, it’s ‘really bad for you’. Oops.
So why is this? Surely that could only make me feel a little more tired? Much worse, it seems, “Doing this regularly can cause cardiovascular or cardiometabolic side effects. Glucose metabolism is impaired, making it more difficult for people to lose weight. “
“If you chronically sleep only five or six hours a night, it affects the way your body uses glucose… you are more hungry and crave foods high in fatty carbohydrates.” Maybe this pizza dinner isn’t such a great idea after all.
The detrimental effect on health is not the only problem, however. Dr Singh mentioned something that will be familiar to those who have worked nights. “It’s called social jet lag,” she told us. “If I regularly went to bed at 10pm and woke up at 5am, but on weekends I go to bed at 2am and sleep until 10am or noon, it would be almost like every weekend. , I had decided to go to California, which is three hours early. “
Regular social jet lag can apparently exacerbate the cardio-metabolic side effects of chronic sleep deprivation, tire you out, and prevent your fat-burning workouts from being as effective. And if you’ve ever tried running during jet lag, you’ll know it can affect your performance.
So what’s the cure? Stop working so you don’t have to wake up at dawn? In fact, the solution is not so dramatic.
“I would say if you could get a little more sleep, even on the days you work, that would be great. Instead of waking up at 6:30 a.m., you could sleep until 7 a.m. Dr Singh told us.
And while that might sound like a pipe dream, it is actually doable. By taking a shower, making my oats overnight for breakfast, and deciding in advance which of my identical shirts I would wear the night before, I managed to cut down on my ‘bed to door’ routine. ‘just 10 minutes away.
There is also something worth trying. Something I previously thought was an exclusive activity for babies, cats sitting in the sun, and students who haven’t yet discovered Red Bull: napping. “Due to the hectic life most people lead, sometimes this is the only way to accommodate that extra half hour. [of sleep] is done by a nap, ”explained Dr Singh.
There are a few caveats, however. “You don’t want to take a nap too close to bedtime because it will make it difficult for you to fall asleep at bedtime. People who have difficulty sleeping should also not take a nap, as this will further worsen their ability to sleep at night.
Is there a “best” time to take a nap? “There’s usually a mid-afternoon dip for most people, when they’re feeling less alert. It’s time to take a nap. Maybe your experience may vary, but when Dr Singh said this I immediately knew when that ‘dive’ was for me. “It has to do with your circadian rhythm. And so now is the right time to take a nap.
The recommended daily amount of sleep is seven to nine hours, and as my fitness tracker noted, I was generally under-resourced. Maybe by changing my wake-up routine or finding an extra half hour, I could increase that number.
Sleep data, works better
Throughout our conversation, Dr Singh mentioned a number of reasons why sleep is vital for fitness enthusiasts in particular. “You need sleep to recover your muscles; your muscles store up to 70% of the glucose that is in your bloodstream, and most of the storage function occurs while you are resting. “
Your sleep doesn’t just affect your muscles: “Your heart, your lungs, your digestive system; everything is reset every night, and this happens while you sleep. “In fact,” there isn’t a single aspect of human performance that is not affected by insufficient sleep. “
Some activity trackers allow you to show a breakdown of the type of sleep you’re getting and, according to Dr. Singh, deep sleep is the key: “Deep sleep is the most restorative thing; this is the time when muscle recovery tends to occur. ”
In fact, sometimes sleep is more important than exercise. “People will ask me, ‘Do I have to get up early to exercise or should I get an extra half hour of sleep? “. Of course, I am biased,
but I would say that it is more important to be well rested, because sleep is biological and it is a question of balance ”.
Off the slopes
Fitness trackers and their sleep monitoring features can then be very helpful in understanding your habits – and they obviously were in my case – but it helps not to overthink the stats.
“If you are able to watch a [fitness tracker] without worrying about the data, then it’s a win-win situation. You get information from it, which you can use to make changes in your life.
“But there is actually a disorder, where some people worry about their sleep. When they use any type of monitor to monitor their sleep, it gets worse. This disorder is called Orthosomnia, and a lump in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine describes how people can diagnose sleep problems for themselves based on gadget feedback, regardless of the accuracy of the data.
So there is a delicate balance between using fitness trackers to improve your fitness level and incorrectly analyzing the data they collect for a potentially harmful effect.
As such, it’s best to use this data as something to consider, rather than a solid life guide. If you are using a fitness tracker, you might notice that you wake up earlier than you want, so you might find a way to wake up later. Or maybe you’ll notice that, like me, your sleep patterns are too irregular. But if you think you might have a sleep disorder or condition, it’s best to see a doctor.
I will continue to use activity trackers to monitor my sleep – now that I know what to look for. I think it will be easier to spot the changes, and therefore to optimize my sleep according to my training. But this may not be the way for everyone.
During my conversation with Dr Meeta Singh, we discussed a few other aspects of sleep that don’t fit into this article so easily. If you are interested, the key points are listed below:
- Regular exercise can help improve your moments of deep sleep, but overtraining can make it much more difficult to sleep.
- Natural light is vital for the circadian rhythm – “light as an alertness pill” according to Dr. Singh, which makes it important for natural awakenings.
- Optimizing sleep is all about respecting your circadian rhythm, getting a good quality of sleep, and keeping a consistent amount of sleep.
- You shouldn’t play video games or any other activity that you actively participate in (like social media) right before bed.