Sleep is essential for good health but elusive to many people. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep 7 - 9 hours each night for optimum health. However, many people receive much less sleep due to the pressures of their busy lifestyle.
A sleep tracker paired with sleep-friendly lifestyle choices can improve your health and quality of life.
Benefits of Tracking Sleep
Sleep is essential for health. Many Americans sleep less than 7 hours a night. Sleep deprivation is associated with a range of health concerns including weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and decreased quality of life.
Quality sleep, an active lifestyle, and good nutrition are essential for optimum health. A sleep tracker empowers you to monitor, evaluate, and improve your sleep patterns.
Using Your Sleep Data to Improve Your Sleep Habits
The data uncovered by your sleep tracking device offers insights into how you can improve your sleep.
Sometimes people become aware of how little time they actually budget for sleep. For example, consider someone who routinely goes to bed at 12 am and wakes up a 6 am. This person receives around 6 hours of sleep a night -- at best! A sleep tracker would reveal the need to schedule and prioritize sleep.
Sleep tracking provides an opportunity to notice connections between your overall wellness and sleep patterns. This is especially powerful when combined with activity tracking, nutrition awareness, and hormone tracking. However, it is beneficial even if you just track your sleep.
Sleep tracking helps you learn which factors impact your sleep, for example:
- How does caffeine consumption affect your sleep? People who are sensitive to caffeine may run into temporary sleep disruptions with just a couple cups of coffee while others have a different experience.
- How does alcohol consumption affect your sleep? Despite alcohol's reputation as a relaxant many find they get less quality sleep on nights when they drink.
- Does exercise timing affect your sleep? Sometimes people with insomnia find it helps to avoid vigorous exercise within 6 hours of bedtime. Vigorous exercise may help enhance sleep when it happens earlier in the day. However, different studies have different findings. Some people are able to exercise in the evening and still get a good night's sleep.
- Does time spent outside help you sleep better or worse?
- Do you notice any connection between computer and device use and sleep quality? Some people find that the blue light in LED monitors and mobile devices stimulates them as it mimics a mini-version of the blue light from the sun.
- How does your sleep levels correlate with your stress levels?
- Do you notice whether large meals at night or even eating certain foods affects your sleep?
- Women may find that their ability to sleep fluctuates along with their hormonal cycles.
Once you identify patterns you can choose to make lifestyle changes that help you sleep better.
Ways to Track Sleep
Clinicians evaluate patient's sleep through polysomnography. The polysomnogram PSG monitors body functions during sleep including:
- Brain activity
- Eye movements
- Muscle activity or activation
- Heart rate and rhythm
- Blood oxygen saturation
Professionals use PSGs to aid in diagnosis of a range of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and more. These tests are impractical for home use since they involve medical grade equipment, lots of wires and sensors. Never mind, it also requires a professional staff to maintain the equipment and interpret the results.
At-home-devices are typically not as accurate as a medical device, but they still offer the user an easy way to evaluate trends in sleep patterns. Most sleep tracking devices also use some similar metrics as they PSG. For example, most devices use some combination of movement, heart rate, and respiration rate to estimate the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Low tech methods for sleep tracking involve keeping a sleep journal. Some opt to keep a sleep journal alongside a tracking device. If you keep a sleep journal, consider noting different factors like:
- The time you go to bed and wake up
- How you feel when you wake up
- Any dreams or ideas that come during the night
- Any lifestyle factors that may impact sleep like caffeine use, evening meals, screen time, or stress
- Whether their partner reports hearing snoring
How Your Biostrap Tracks Your Sleep
Biostrap also uses multiple metrics to estimate your sleep quality. The combination of biometrics feed into your sleep score. Since everyone has restful nights and restless nights, we take an average factoring in the last 3 to 30 days.
Biostrap factors in your heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and other factors.
The metrics give a picture of your:
- The time it took for you to fall asleep
- Total time awake
- Deep sleep percentage
- Average respiration rate
- Average blood oxygen saturation percentage
How Sleep Affects Biometrics
Resting Heart Rate
Quality sleep decreases the workload of your heart. Blood pressure and heart rate both decrease during sleep.
The link between heart health and sleep isn't entirely understood. Researchers observed a connection between heart disease and lack of restful sleep however the cause isn't clear. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased heart rate.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
Rest and sleep help HRV metrics trend upwards. Sleep deprivation often causes decreased HRV sometimes even after just one night. You may observe variations in your baseline HRV coordinate with your sleep patterns. Off course, heart health is complicated and HRV varies depending on multiple factors.
Blood Oxygen Saturation
As mentioned, blood oxygen saturation is one of the factors included within your sleep score. Good restful sleep contributes to high blood saturation levels when all else is well. Some sleep disorders like sleep apnea lead to lower blood saturation levels.
With the help of your Biostrap you can gauge the quality of your sleep. This information may lead to positive changes resulting in feeling refreshed in the morning.
Sources & Resources
Understanding Your Sleep Score, Biostrap Website
How Sleep Affects Your Heart, Webmd
Lack of Sleep Related Health Risks, National Health Service UK
Why Electronics May Stimulate You Before Bed, National Sleep Foundation