I recently jumped on the fitness tracker bandwagon, purchasing my very first FitBit. I decided on the modest (and much cheaper) option, the Fitbit Flex 2 for a number of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t need all the bells and whistles on my wrist – just the basics: step tracker, energy output and of course, sleep tracking.
After 1 week of waking up and rushing to check my sleep patterns, I decided it’s probably time to understand what the hell it all means. This is what I discovered…
Firstly, although the tracker I have doesn’t track REM or ‘Deep/Light Sleep’ stages, it does tell me how many hours in total I was Asleep, how often I was Restless, and completely Awake. When you’re still for over an hour, the tracker begins monitoring your movements, and the results are tracked throughout the night, ready for analysing in the morning.
So how do I compare?
According to FitBit, the average user is in bed for 7 hours and 33 minutes but gets about 6 hrs and 38 minutes of proper sleep per night. This number is surprising but in honesty, a lot more realistic and believable than the recommended 8-9 hrs. Over the week, I averaged 6 hrs and 25 mins per night – pretty damn close to average. The remaining 55 mins is the average time users are ‘Restless’.
Restlessness is triggered if you’re going from a still state to a moving state. I’m averaging at around 34 minutes of this per night, which I’m pretty happy with. The mornings where you wake up exhausted, even though you went to bed and woke up at your regular times is because of this Restlessness – tossing and turning instead of going further into your sleep cycle.
On the days where I had more shut-eye, and less ‘Times Awake’ I also noticed I wasn’t as hungry throughout the day. When your sleep isn’t of high quality, it can actually mess with two important hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is basically your hunger hormone; it’s the chemical that is released into the stomach that lets the brain know you’re ready to eat. Leptin comes from your fat cells, and when released suppresses hunger and signals to your brain that you’re full. When your sleep is disturbed, not long enough or of poor quality, the body makes less leptin and more ghrelin; basically, you become ravenous but can never feel satiated.
Have a go at tracking your own sleep, making notes on how you feel during the day and compare them with the quality and duration of your sleep. Your fitness, health and mental health has more to do with sleep than you know!