An aggressive cancer diagnosis in May 2018 got me thinking about my health more generally and specifically the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy mind and body. I’m on my 3rd re-read (listen actually) of Matthew Walker’s, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams in which the author makes a pretty convincing case that sleep is everything and that with good sleep habits you will live longer, smarter and happier. If you haven’t read it and are interested in health you should check it out.
My cancer was deemed aggressive and so in consultation with a surgeon, two oncologists, a radiation oncologist and my wife – we decided to treat it aggressively. Over the last six months I’ve had surgery (prostate and lymph nodes removed), a two month course of radiotherapy and currently 4 months into 24 months of hormone therapy. Cut, burn, poison – they’re the current options when it comes to cancer treatment. That said, I believe a healthy diet, exercise and good sleep will have a big impact on my recovery and longevity. Hence the current interest in sleep.
Like most people – I’ve never really thought too much about sleep. You just sort of get on with it and battle on with what sleep you manage to get – your body lets you know when you don’t get enough and compensates to make it up . But travel, stress, illness, environment, diet can all have a short or long-term impact on your sleep and it’s more likely you just fall further into sleep debt.
After trying a few apps. on the Apple Watch (more on this in another post) I came to the conclusion that the poor battery life and form factor just weren’t working. While I love the Apple Watch for many reasons- the battery life sucks and I just can’t get used to sleeping with it on.
So prompted by a friend I took a look at the Oura Ring sleep / health / wellness tracker. The Oura ring is on it’s second generation and the first thing you notice is what a remarkable job they’ve done jamming a lot of technology into a small space – 3d accelerometer and gyroscope, body temperature sensor, infrared LEDs, battery and BLE radio.
As you can see in the picture – It’s only slightly thicker than my platinum wedding band and a little bit lighter (titanium and plastic). I ordered size 10 but I’m probably a 9.5 so it’s a little loose but I erred on the bigger size assuming my fingers will swell in the summer. Oura have done a good job with the design – quite a few different finishes and styles – I chose the Heritage Stealth (matt-black). It’s waterproof and fairly scratch resistant so you can put it on a forget about it. The battery lasts about a week and only takes 20 mins to charge and uses a wireless charger (included). There is an airplane mode which turns off the BTE radio and that pushes battery life to about 11 days – but you have to remember to put it on the charger to re-enable it and upload data – so sorta defeats the purpose IMO.
The ring tracks a number of sleep metrics :
- Resting Heart Rate (RHR)
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
- Body Temperature
- Respiratory Rate
The first four of these are used to determine how much time you spend in different parts of the sleep cycle and gives you an overall Readiness Score. Activity track, as you might expect – activity – it’s not really a dedicated activity tracker and from my experience the step and calorie tracking is pretty inaccurate compared to my Apple Watch.
Right now I’m really just interested in the overall score and duration of my sleep but will likely at some point dig a bit deeper into things like HRV and body temperature – especially when I get back to cycling.
The ring comes with a pretty decent app (I’ve only tried the iOS version) that basically derives the readiness score and presents last nights sleep as well as overall trends.
The key part for me is the duration of each element of the sleep cycle. REM and Deep sleep are the most important to overall health and recovery. Resting Heart Rate is a good indicator of general aerobic health. Everyone is different and it’s key to focus on the trends and not the absolutes.
At this point (now you can see the charts) – it’s worth pointing out that my sleep right now is really poor – these are the effects of my aforementioned cancer treatment – I wake up 2-3 times a night for a bio break. But already I can see some improvements and I’m able to experiment with different sleep aids, bedtime routines and eventually impact of exercise (when I’m recovered enough).
So far – after about a month – I’m pretty impressed with Oura – I certainly have some suggestions for improvements in the app – more on that when I get time to write about my comparisons with other Apple Watch sleep trackers. Until then :
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
– Peter Drucker