Sleep and Stress Tech Stuff

Over the last several months I have been experimenting with a couple different uses of health technology: sleep monitoring and heart rate variability. Both have given me some really good feedback and insight into my body so I wanted to share those with you.

Sleep Monitoring
Sleep is huge- maybe the most important variable of them all. As a young guy, I took it for granted. I figured I could get by on 5 hours sleep without a problem. As a early worker (5/6 am) and father of 3 boys I have subsequently spent much of the last 10 years majorly under slept but not realizing how much. Understanding how important sleep is I decided to start tracking it using an iPhone App called Sleep Time from Azumio. It’s pretty straightforward, like many of the similar sleep trackers, and gives me some pretty good feedback. Over the last few months I have kept track of most every night and now have a pretty good picture of my sleeping habits. Here’s a screenshot:

As you can see all the basics are there, along with the ability to take your heart rate upon waking. I have enjoyed the alarm function which wakes me up dependent upon the depth of sleep I’m in. This allows the program to wake me when I’m more likely to be in a transition to waking state. It also gives good long term data and trend analysis:

All in all I’ve been very happy with my sleep tracking experience and have heard similar things from others, independent of the way in which they keep track or log. The most important thing for me is to be aware of it all because from there I can take measures to improve my sleep hygiene.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
As I have explored the body and learned more about stress (and the body’s response to stress) I have become more curious as to how my body responds to stress. No matter the source (lack of sleep, exercise, emotional, family, diet), stress is stress. The body reacts to stress in a number of ways and often without us even knowing. This is a good thing, it’s supposed to work that way. However, as a result of not seeing all this stress response, we keep pushing our body to the limit because we think we are fine. It doesn’t take too long and it starts to catch up to us in the myriad of health problems we see, from headaches to colds to weight gain to fatigue and more. Knowing this, I wanted to try to stay ahead of the game.

Enter Heart Rate Variability. A simple measure of your body’s state of stress. After reading a bit about it I decided to track it using the BioForce HRV program. Designed originally for athletes but useable by anyone, this helps you gauge your stress load on a daily basis. I wanted to use it for two reasons. One to see how my daily life impacted my body (ie how much a night up with the baby really impacted me) and second to guide my workout intensity.

Using a heart rate monitor and my phone I measured my HRV every morning. If I saw low stress (green light) I knew I could likely handle a good workout that day and subsequently worked hard if I felt like it. If I saw a stressed body (red light) I skipped my workout and spent some time regenerating and relaxing.

Although I usually have a good feel for how tired my body is I have found it fascinating to see how much goes on underneath my radar. This has been a great tool in my fitness program as it gives a pretty valuable outlook on how the body is truly functioning. Here’s a glimpse at one of my charts:

There are several other versions available now, including some Apps for smartphones and tablets. Although I haven’t used any of them they likely follow similar guidelines.

Another iPhone app with the same premise I have used from time to time is called Stress Check, also from Azumio.

Any other cool health tech stuff out there? Let me know I’d love to explore some more…

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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