Eliminate luck from sleep quality!

I’m quite an avid health tracker. In some previous articles, I have described how I track stress, how I changed my life with a simple excel spreadsheet or how you could live healthier with the help of technology. Being familiar with the difficulties of lifestyle change, I know that it is almost impossible without data.

For example, for years I was frustrated by the quality of my sleep. One day, I would wake up refreshed after just 6 hours of sleep, but another I spent fatigued, even after getting the usually recommended 8 hours of shuteye. Given how important proper sleep is to brainpower, health and overall well-being, I wanted to optimize how I spent my nights.

I have tried many sensors for measuring sleep quality from Fitbit One and Surge to Viatom Checkme and Withings Pulse, but the ultimate solution turned out to be the Pebble Time sensor paired with the Android for Sleep app. My goal was to eliminate luck from sleep quality and have a list in mind about the potential mistakes I can make to ruin it as well as the things that will improve it on purpose.

Sleeping Disturbances - Sleep Tracking

Pebble Time & Android Sleep App = Unbeatable pair for sleep tracking

I am quite a fan of the “Pebble Time – Android Sleep App” duo, which has a very simple reason: the sensor is comfortable to use and the app is very clever. The tracker, developed by Pebble in collaboration with researchers at Stanford University, measures your sleep, when you go to bed, displays sleep, deep-sleep, and the times when you fall asleep and wakes up. Pebble is small, easy-to-use and very useful. It has hundreds of other different applications as well. Late November 2016, Fitbit has acquired Pebble, and I was sorry to hear it will stop developing the product. But the device is still available via retail.

Pebble Time Sleep Tracking

Discover whether you are a night owl or whether you are snoring

The Android Sleep App has a long history among its peers: it was launched in 2010 and the app was downloaded by more than 14 million users ever since. It can pair with your sleep tracker and its most important feature is that it wakes you up truly at the best possible time so you feel rested instead of being groggy. The app can wake you with nature sounds, soothing music, captcha or puzzle alarms. It also helps you track your sleep, deep-sleep and warns you if you are running on a sleep deficit.

Moreover, the app also pays attention to the sound in the room while you are sleeping to catch you snoring, record you talking in your sleep, or help you diagnose sleep illnesses. You could get to know many novelties about yourself, if you use a sleep tracker. Petr Nalenka, who works in the Urbandroid team at Android for Sleep confirmed that. He told me, some people are surprised they are heavy snorers, which they did not know before using the app. Moreover, others are even more surprised when they discover they suffer from some severe respiratory issues such as sleep apnoe.

Sleep as Android - Sleep Tracking

Sleep as Android recently added some mind-blowing new features to its app, too. Based on its recommendations, you can adjust for inter-timezone travel ahead in order to prevent jet lag. Moreover, you can discover whether you are a night owl or a lark.

Researchers at Sleep as Android found that people are born with a certain chronotype. Everyone is on a spectrum from owl (someone who stays up late and prefers to get up later in the morning, or even in the afternoon) to lark (someone who stays up pretty early, but goes to bed with the sunset). It is very useful to know this information, as if you are lucky you might be able to adjust your work schedule according to it. I know about myself that I’m a lark and thus I get up every day very early as I know my productive hours are in the morning. Which one are you?

night owl vs early bird - sleep tracking

The sleep tracking experiment

So, on a sunny June afternoon I decided to launch the 6-months sleep tracking marathon for gaining as much data out of my sleeping habits as possible in order to have a balanced and refreshing sleep experience every night. For doing so, I repeated the same ritual for the next 182 days – and I still do.

When I go to bed, I put on the Pebble Time tracker and launch the Sleep as Android app. On the launch screen, I click on the “ideal” button to see what would be the best time for me to wake up tomorrow. Then I decide how much flexibility I grant the app in terms of time (I usually give it plus or minus 10 minutes). At the end of the ritual I pair Sleep as Android with the sensor with only one click. With that work done, I fall asleep.

In the morning, Pebble vibrates gently when it thinks this is the best time to wake me up and I have to solve 4 math challenges in order to stop the app. Otherwise, it keeps on snoozing: it buzzes and plays the chosen music.

Fresh in the Morning - Sleep Tracking

How does my sleep pattern look like?

Average sleep length: 7,4 hours
Average rating: 4

Average No. of deep sleep cycles: 5,8
Average % spent in deep sleep: 45%

What did I learn from the experiment and the data?

  1. Using an app (no matter how good that is) without a sensor for tracking sleep is difficult. The sleep tracking apps on your smartphone are simply not accurate enough to provide you with appropriate data.
  2. The sensor will not change the quality of your sleep at once and by itself only. It is really not a magic wand, but it will provide you with data based on which you can change it.
  3. My main finding was that it is possible to sleep only as much as you need (no more, no less). But only by using technology!
  4. When I couldn’t wake up easily before, it was because I woke myself up at the wrong time. You could wake up more easily too.
  5. My most positive takeaway: I have never been more confident about controlling my sleep.

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