How and why I track my sleep
In my very first post, I presented my reasons for creating this blog and announced that I would share more information on my self-monitoring project over the weeks. So far, the month-long challenge I took up has kept me busy, but today’s prompt on self-help books doesn’t interest me and I have decided to instead share one of the reasons why I started this project – and why you might want to.
I have a Fitbit Flex tracker. My boyfriend gave it to me for my birthday last year and I have worn it every day since. Concealed in a discrete wristband, it tracks my movements and gives me an estimate of the steps I have taken, the distance I have walked, and the calories I have lost. In addition, it monitors my sleep to give me an idea of how long and how well I slept. I just need to activate the sleep mode at night and deactivate it in the morning.
When I first got my Flex, I used to activate it every time I went to bed, but after a few weeks, I forgot to do so more and more often and eventually gave up. One thing I really liked was the alarm function: the wristband would simply vibrate at the time I had set and wake me up very gently. I can’t stand alarm clocks – like many of us, I always hated them – and it felt great to wake up without the urge to throw the alarm clock at a wall or through a window.
Unfortunately, after a year of so, my tracker stopped vibrating. It wouldn’t even vibrate when I reached my steps goal as it used to, but it really was the alarm function that I missed most. After that, it became extremely difficult for me to wake up when my alarm rang. I had always had trouble feeling asleep and waking up, and it just felt like there wasn’t much I could do about it any more. Even these days, I only get up when my alarm rings if I absolutely have to.
So when I started my self-monitoring project, the first thing I decided to keep track of was my sleep. I knew it would be easy: I would just have to activate my tracker at night like I used to and deactivate it in the morning. The Fitbit app would take care of the rest as the tracker synced with my computer, but I decided to gather the data in my all-purposes Excel workbook in case I might need it. It wasn’t too demanding – I just needed to copy the times I activated and deactivated my Flex as well as the app’s estimate of how long I had slept.
As I only began seven days ago, it is way too early to draw any conclusions from my sleeping data, but as I gather data about my diet, physical activity, TV and computer use, mood, etc. I should be able to notice patterns, spot activities with a good or bad influence on my sleep, and make the necessary changes to make sure my sleep improves. I already have a good idea of what to do and what to avoid, but having numbers in front of me should convince me to do something about it.
Eventually, I would like to define how much sleep I need, at what times I need to go to bed and get up to get enough sleep and feel rested, and stick to them. This should bring to my days the structure I desperately need and allow me to set up a reliable morning routine instead of a list of activities that I tend to ignore whenever I haven’t slept well or enough – aka most of the time.
Featured image: Fennec sleeping on a roof by Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr, resized and cropped by me.