Sleeping with Fitbit (Sexual Jokes Not Included)

Ah, sleep tracking. How I wanted to master you long ago.

We spend 1/3 of our lives unconscious, and yet most of us don’t think much of it. Except when people brag about how little sleep they got and how they are still functioning. Hurray for you? Or in the immortal words of comedic genius Chris Farley: “la, dee-frickin’ da!

So I first tried the Zeo sleep coach and had a rather disappointing experience. Also, they are apparently out of business as of March 2013. In any event, I quickly made the switch to tracking my sleep with my Fitbit.

The problem I had with Zeo is that it was too tight around my head, and worst of all, left very noticeable marks on my forehead. Perhaps it’s due to my light complexion. On the bright side, I liked how detailed and (presumably) accurate the data was with the Zeo. After all, measuring brain waves sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Enter the less invasive Fitbit sleep tracker

Instead of measuring brain waves, it measures your movement or “restlessness” during the night. Since it’s snuggly tucked away on a band around your arm, it’s significantly more comfortable than a tight headband. And it’s far less likely to move around in your sleep (which is why the headband had to be so tight in the first place. Grrr).

All it takes is remembering to press and hold the main button (and by main button, I mean the only button) to start the timer before going to sleep. In the morning, you wake up and press the button again to stop the timer. I must admit, I’ve forgotten to start it a few times.


Also, remember the Lumen Trails app I told you about (formerly Daily Tracker)?

Of course you do.

Just in case I forget to start the sleep timer, I have a backup system in Lumen Trails. It’s a little clunkier, but when I finally get around to analyzing my data (it’s on my to-do list! I swear!), I’ll be able to fill in the missing days of my Fitbit data, with my data from Lumen Trails. At which point, the full picture of my sleep shall be painted! Step aside Picasso, there’s a new kid in town!

So how has this helped me?

Still no actual analysis, but I did notice one thing in particular. Usually I need about 7 hours of sleep to not feel groggy all day, and still get tired at the right time at night to keep a regular sleep schedule.

However, when I exercise for 1 hour the night before, I need an extra hour of sleep in order to achieve the same feeling of restfulness. And believe me, I’ve tried many times to just get the same 7 hours but waking up after 7 hours is like pulling wisdom teeth out with no anesthesia. Yikes.

Speaking of restfulness (not to be confused with restlessness), how do I measure that?

By using the Lumen Trails app. I give a rating between 1-5 of how good I feel the next morning. 1 is the worst night’s sleep ever (or way too little sleep). 5 is sleeping like a baby. You know, snoring, drool, outrageous dreams… the works.

I used to use decimal ratings, but then I had a chat with Mike Tyrrell of Wine Zeus who helped me realize that if I’m using decimals my rating system probably isn’t designed correctly. Thanks Mike!

Random Plug

Don’t forget to check out Scott Britton’s Sleep Hacking course. I’ve only just taken part of it but so far I’m liking it a lot. Creates a nice framework and gives specific advice on how to improve the major areas of your life that affect your sleep quality. Once again, Scott makes it easy to spend very little time, and get major results. And for that, I give him map props yo.

How about you? How many hours do you need each night to feel well rested? How have you managed to improve your sleep?

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