A Record High Score

As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased a Fitbit almost a month ago. I only wanted a cheap way to see heartrate but discovered the sleep tracking feature and have been obsessed ever since. I thought I was a good sleeper. I tend to go to bed fairly early and always fall asleep within 5-10 minutes. I wake up pretty early, but figured that was ok since I go to bed early. Turns out the data shows that I’m a horrible sleeper.

I have yet to sleep eight hours. With a sleep scale from 0-100, I rarely crack the 70 mark, which is only considered “fair”. Most nights I’m sleeping 5.5 to 6.5 hours. My REM and deep sleep cycles average 45 minutes to an hour. That’s pitiful. It also partially helps explain why I constantly need a nap and always feel low energy.

It’s no secret that you need a good nights sleep. But we are also bombarded with sayings like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and seeing Jocko’s daily 4:30 am Instagram post, shaming you to get up and work out. So just how important is a good nights sleep? Well, I just finished Dr Peter Attia’s book on longevity titled “Outlive”. I highly recommend it. He considers sleep the number two item to combat chronic disease (exercise is number one). He goes through great detail about why the REM and deep sleep cycles are so important. I’m sold. I am now fully convinced that I need to teach myself how to get a good nights sleep.

At my age can I really teach an old dog new tricks? I’m not sure. But… last night I scored my highest ever sleep score. I scored an 87 with 7 hours and 40 minutes of sleep. I was in REM for two hours and 10 minutes, deep sleep for an hour and 27 minutes. I don’t know what voodoo Fitbit does to figure this out, but the studies I quickly looked up show it’s reasonably close to an EEG test. Good enough for government work I figure.

I’ve noticed another few data points that are interesting. Specific to sleep there are two measurements it tracks – heart rate variability (HRV) and temperature. You want as high a variability as possible. Mine is pitifully low and probably reflects a poor overall level of fitness. Temperature shows how much your body temp drops from it’s baseline when you sleep (dropping is good). Here’s the interesting thing… when I drink alcohol, my HRV gets worse, and my body temperature rises instead of dropping. I knew that alcohol is not good for sleep – but I’d never seen it so dramatically illustrated. Not specific to sleep, but after a night of a handful of drinks, my resting heart rate goes up for much of the next day. Crazy how impactful it is.

I’m not sure how to improve my sleep score further. In my part of the world, it’ll soon be light until 10:30pm and light again at 7am. Starting at 2-3am every night the dog gets restless and starts going in and out of the room. A sleep mask would be too claustrophobic and runs the risk of being suprise attacked by zombies in the middle of the night. Ditto earplugs. It’s a challenge.

It’s a challenge I accept however. Among my many other goals this summer, I want to get to the point where I am regularly hitting the 8-hour mark for sleep and averaging high 80’s for a sleep score. My HRV needs to improve drastically, and my resting HR can stand to drop another 10 points.

It would be nice to not feel like I had to take a nap every day. It would be wonderful to pop out of bed and feel refreshed. It would be fantastic to not end up with dementia my last decade of life (poor sleep is one of the associated factors). Good goals to have.

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