More then ever, people are starting to realize the importance of getting a good nights sleep. Maybe it is the proliferation of LCD displays, Kindles and just a large amount of reasons in general to stay awake, but its finally hitting the mainstream that sleep matters. Many technology companies have responded in kind by creating a bunch of different devices that track sleep. While I am excited about the possibilities these technologies provide, I want everyone to keep mind that you can track just about anything with a pencil and a sheet of paper. That being said, if you have some extra cash and are looking for a good ROI, a sleep tracker may be in order.
Before we look at some of the better sleep trackers, I want to share a quote from a that is particularly striking in terms of sleep’s role in health and fitness. While the below except was aimed at people trying to loose weight, I think it is equally relevant for testosterone enhancement. As you probably know, many of the hormones essential in muscle growth and testosterone production, like human growth hormone for example, are also primarily responsible for fat loss as well as many other body composition changes. Since balancing and enhancing the endocrine system are all integral parts of the TestShock program, sleep is one of the few things I absolutely insist on. Ensuring hormones like cortisol are balanced starts with getting enough sleep.
“Not sleeping enough—less than seven hours of sleep per night—can reduce and undo the benefits of dieting, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the study, dieters were put on different sleep schedules. When their bodies received adequate rest, half of the weight they lost was from fat. However when they cut back on sleep, the amount of fat lost was cut in half—even though they were on the same Diet”
What Exactly Is Being Tracked
First off, many of the fitness trackers on the market are able to track both steps taken per day and hours slept per night. You can expect this from most of the wearable bracelets costing as little as 60 dollars. What is really interesting is that some of the higher priced devices track some metrics that can really give you good insights about how your body is recovering from training. An example of one such device, which I will detail below, is the Jawbone UP3. This device has an advanced accelerometer, a sensor to measure skin moisture, continuous heart rate monitoring as well as skin temperature sensors. This allows the device to give you advanced feedback about how long you were in various states of sleep ect…. While not all of the wearable’s featured below can do this, an increasing number are able to deliver significant insights into your bodies ability to rest and recover.
Why Write About Fitness Trackers
No lie….The main reason I am featuring this article is that I was considering getting one. The main reason I was thinking of getting one is to bring more awareness to how much time I am spending sleeping. Originally I wanted a fitness tracker for the pedometer function. As an entrepreneur I spend a ton of time on the phone, in meeting and working behind a computer. Since you guys know how important it is to get daily activity, particularly walking, I wanted to make sure I was practicing what I was preaching. Recently I noticed that the additional time I was spending behind a computer was causing me to feel more sluggish in the gym. Not surprisingly I realized that the only change in my lifestyle was a spontaneous reduction in the amount of walking I was doing. I realized that I could fine tune my reaction to “spontaneous”activity by bringing my daily steps within the realm of conscious activity. By tracking steps I will be able to more accurately monitor what would have been my spontaneous activity levels.
I truly believe in the power of walking to maintain fitness. Hitting it hard in the gym and maintaining a good amount of daily activity in the form of walking is the best way to ensure long term health and a great physique. Maybe add some daily mobility and flexibility in there and you will be golden.
Anyway, when I started looking into fitness trackers I realized that many of them also track sleep. What was once an exotic technology is now completely common. The normal sleep trackers are now even being replaced by more advanced sleep tracking like the type featured below on the UP3. My interest quickly turned from finding a basic fitness device to finding one that could relatively accurately track my sleep. Though I may just be getting bamboozled by these wearable technology companies marketing efforts, my interest in sleep tracking was peaked. I started looking further into the affects sleep tracking can have on overall sleep habits. The research is compelling. Basically, regardless of a sleep trackers ability to accurately trac sleep, its primary value lies in its ability to bring awareness to the user’s sleep patterns. If the user likes their tracker and enjoys using it regularly, it is nearly guaranteed to have a positive impact on the amount of sleep they are getting. That is good enough for me and pretty much solidified my decision to try one of the better sleep trackers.
This is the same wearable I mentioned in the section above. It is one off the newer modeels released this year by Jawbone. Apparently they responded to customer’s who wanted something that was able to do more advanced sleep tracking. They responded by adding th above mentioned sensors into the watch. This allows it’s sleep tracking to go far beyond the capability of trackers that rely on accelerometers alone.
This is a simple tracker that advertises itself as such. While this tracker does not claim to be able to measure the different stages of sleep that someone is in, it is able to tell the user how much time they spent asleep and how much activity they completed throughout the day. What this tracker lacks in sophistication it makes up for in cost and ease of use. This tracker ranges from 70-100 USD and consistently gets high reviews.
The FitBit Charge is another fitness tracker that tracks sleep as well as steps. Unlike the Jawbone UP3, the Charge does not have advanced sleep tracking that tracks the different stages of sleep accurately. However, the Charge HR has the ability to track heart rate continuously through out the day more accurately then most other fitness trackers. While the sleep tracker may not track the different stages of sleep it is able to track sleep automatically without being put into a sleep mode or having to have any additional input from the user. The FitBit charge also features pretty long battery life at 7-10 days. Probably the best feature about the charge is the easy of use due to the highly visible display, watch type clasp and strap and stylish design. Compared to the Jawbone fitness trackers, the FitBit trackers get consistently higher ratings for design and fit.
The Jawbone UP2 fitness tracker is the latest lightweight fitness tracker from Jawbone. It s basically Jawbone’s answer to the FitBit flex and so has a similar feature set. This tracker is great for the user that wants basic activity and sleep tracking. Jawbone does not make any claims that this tracker has the advanced sleep tracking that is present on the UP3. This should not be a surprise as this tracker ranges from 69.99-99.99 USD depending on which year model you buy. The one featured above is the latest release which usually retails at the higher end of the range. In term of reviews, the FitBit Flex and Jawbone UP2 are very close. It really comes down to which one you think looks and fits better. The clasp on the UP2 has gotten some negative reviews from people saying that it sometimes opens, but it is lighter and has a somewhat more creative design.
The basis peak is an advanced sleep and activity tracker that features both continuous heart rate monitoring and sleep stage tracking. You can see in the diagram below that the basis peak had one of the most accurate sleep trackers out of all the fitness trackers. Unfortunately the UP3 was not part of the tested fitness trackers shown below. The Basis Peak is supposed to have one of the best continuous heart rate trackers. Most of the fitness trackers that have this feature are unable to get accurate reading when the user is running as the wrist sensors start to bounce around. The Basis Peak’s use of an optical sensor allows it to avoid this issue and provide continuously accurate heart rate monitoring through strenuous activity.
How Accurate Is Sleep Tracking?
This question was best answered by sleep specialist Dr Christopher Winter’s piece in the Huffington Post in Feb 2014. In his now infamous post he compared 4 of the market leaders in retail wearable technology to one of the stndard sleep trackers used in a lab. What he found was that the Basis sleep tracker was by far the closest to being accurate. This is no surprise as it shares many of the same sensors that are used on the Jawbone UP3 shown above. Out of the trackers reviewed here, those two are definitely the most advanced in terms of sleep tracking.
Graph of the data compiled and put into a similar format for ease of comparison:
Should You Really Care About Sleep
Yes…. Sleep has drastic affects on your testosterone, cortisol and growth hormone levels. First of all, growth hormone is known to have a synergistic affect on other anabolic hormones like testosterone. Growth hormone in particular has been shown to aid in lipolysis or fat breakdown. Cortisol, which is the primary hormone involved in muscle breakdown, is raised whenever an individual undergoes periods of sleep deprivation. One of the easiest ways to experience chronically elevated cortisol levels is to get less than an ideal amount of sleep over an extended period of time. How much is not enough sleep…..Sleep researcher don’t all agree on the exact right amount of sleep, but they generally place it in the 7.5 – 9 hour range for most adults. As you probably know, it is common for people to get as little as 5.5 hours of consistent sleep. This is probably due to the various forms of entertainment that are available to people, Netflix, Angry Birds, Kindle, iPad, Netflix. Think about it, people that are addicted to entertainment are definitely going to be more likely to suffer from the above mentioned distractions. The truth is that many things can negatively impact your sleep. Simply bringing some awareness to the problem is one of the simplest things you can do to begin moving your sleeping habits in the right direction.