ONE-TRACK MIND

Are you pay­ing too much at­ten­tion to your sleep tracker?

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS -

You wake up feel­ing – shock – rested, ac­tu­ally. Your eyes don’t feel gritty. Your tem­ples aren’t throb­bing. Then comes the mor­tal sin – check­ing the sleep info on your tracker to find out how well you ac­tu­ally slept. The stats show red. Oh. So maybe you didn’t snooze so soundly af­ter all? Wear­able tech is fast mak­ing its way into the bed­room, which is chang­ing the way we think and talk about sleep. But in the case of mon­i­tor­ing your shut-eye, knowl­edge isn’t nec­es­sar­ily power. The prob­lem is, ac­cord­ing to Nick Lit­tle­hales, an elite sports sleep coach and au­thor of Sleep*, get­ting hung up on dig­its and graphs rather than how your body feels af­ter rest can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Clock­ing in with your tracker be­fore even start­ing your day can play havoc with your body’s nat­u­ral sleep pat­terns (thanks to the HEV light emit­ted from your de­vice) and won’t do your cor­ti­sol lev­els any favours when you find the num­bers don’t add up with how you feel.‘there’s no bet­ter sound­ing board for the qual­ity of sleep than your own body, so it pays to lis­ten to it,’ says Lit­tle­hales. There’s an­other rea­son why track­ing your sleep may not be aid­ing your health goals as much as keep­ing tabs on your heart rate or mon­i­tor­ing your macros does – yet. ‘Most sleep track­ers use mo­tion sen­sors or heart mon­i­tors – or a com­bi­na­tion of both,’ adds Lit­tle­hales. ‘But to get an in­sight into the dif­fer­ent phases of sleep, you’d need to record brain ac­tiv­ity, and the tech sim­ply isn’t there yet.’ It’s also worth not­ing that generic track­ing apps don’t con­sider that the amount of sleep the body re­quires varies from per­son to per­son. Your in­ter­nal body clock, how much sleep you re­quire to func­tion ef­fec­tively, as well as the best time to snatch those ZZZS (the con­cept of early ris­ers and night owls is an ac­tual thing) are dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one. So, when it comes to track­ing – as with your av­o­cado ob­ses­sion and sportswear spend­ing habits – it’s all about #bal­ance. Get too caught up in the stats and the stress of wor­ry­ing whether you’re clock­ing up enough sleep will keep you awake. ‘Stress is a huge cause of in­som­nia,’ says Lit­tle­hales. ‘So put­ting pres­sure on your­self to get the per­fect eight hours is likely to lead to less sleep, not more.’ But if you use your re­sults pos­i­tively, it can be to­tally worth it. ‘Some­times, see­ing the stats in black and white can prompt peo­ple to make help­ful tweaks to their habits,’ says Dr Vikki Revell, a re­searcher from the Univer­sity of Sur­rey’s Sleep Re­search Cen­tre†. ‘Whether it’s set­ting a re­minder to go to bed at a de­cent hour, or in­vest­ing in a black­out blind, th­ese changes can help pro­tect you from the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of poor sleep.’ So turn out the light, turn off the app and get some sleep. Dreamy.

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