Get the big picture of your health (part 4 of 4) – Sleep like a baby

October 23, 2013

Even though sleeping represents around one third of our life, and has an influence on your general health, there hadn’t been any scientific explanation of the specific “role” of sleep until a recent study showing the importance of catching good Zzzz. Indeed, a good night’s sleep allows the metabolic homeostasis of the brain – washing off the excess organic compounds accumulated during the day, rebooting your grey matter for a fresh new day. But how do you track sleep? How can you make sure you have the best sleep? What has an impact on the quality of your sleep?


Want to sleep like a baby?

Sleep tracking is now mainstream, but it was not long ago that the only persons who would do it were people suffering from severe sleeping disorders. To get a diagnosis they had to check into a specialized hospital, sleep with all kinds of wires and electrodes attached to them and wait for the report.

1. The first device that comes to mind

Some activity trackers like the Withings Pulse are able to track both activity and sleep. Wear the Pulse on your wrist using the provided wristband and let it analyze your sleep.


a) Track your sleep

Next thing you know, an automated background syncing sent all the data to your smartphone or tablet, and a graph is built in the free Health Mate mobile app. The graph indicates the different sleep cycles as well as key sleep quality indicators (duration of the sleep, time it took to fall asleep, times you woke up). Note: in the app you can also set Sleep tracking reminders to make sure you go to bed at a certain time (you can create one for the week or customize them on a day to day basis).


b) Analyze the results

Connect to your Withings account on your PC to access your Health Mate web dashboard and to get the big picture of your health. The “Activity & sleep patterns” graph brings to light correlations between activity and sleep, which are tightly linked. Read part 1 and part 2 of William Bragg‘s “Natural data hunter” article to learn how to read the graph.


“Exercising is a natural way to favor falling asleep”

c) Increase your level of activity

If you rarely engage in a physical activity and have problems getting the recommended amount of sleep (about 8 hours) and/or have issues with the quality of your Zzzz,  you might want to try and become more active.

The power of feedback loops

Exercising is a natural way to favor falling asleep because it facilitates relaxation which is the “opening act” of your sleep. It also boosts your REM and NREM sleep. Don’t go out running late in the evening though – exercising right before going to bed is known to be detrimental to your sleep. Make sure you keep a 2-hour “deceleration lane” prior to bedtime.

Use the Withings Pulse activity tracker to know how active you are, and to help you gradually become more active. Set a goal, like “Today I’ll walk 8,000 steps!”, and try to excel yourself towards the 10,000 steps per day recommendation used by the World Health Organization.

d) Monitor your dietary habits

Track your nutrition using the free MyFitnessPal app (one of our favorite partners!). What you eat and drink (and when you eat it) is indeed known to have an impact on your sleep. Some things are good to eat and drink right before going to bed (carbohydrates or a caffeine-free hot beverage). Others should be avoided in that time-frame (proteins or coffee).



2. The ideal complementary device

High levels of CO2 are known to cause headaches and to affect negatively the quality of your sleep. As a good indoor air quality is important to get the most restorative nights, you might want to put a Smart Body Analyzer in your bedroom, a rather confined space where you spend a lot of time.

This one-stop health tracking scale continuously monitors air quality and syncs with your smartphone/tablet, providing you with an image of the invisible: you will see the evolution of the level of carbon dioxide (a good indicator of indoor air pollution) and temperature (for comfort). You will know if you should clear the air before going to bed, in order to promote good sleep. You will see if you should leave your bedroom door slightly open to avoid a sleep-deteriorating peak in the early morning.



3. Apps to complete your sleep tracking solution

Want more? Connect to Sleep-e-Health and TicTrac, two of our partner apps (there are more than 100 of them!). They will give you advice and help you achieve a better sleep.

  • Sleep-e-Health is a web-based health and fitness application available to anyone looking to help improve their sleep health. Sleep-e-Health has the tools to plan, track, and analyze your sleep health and wellness.

  • Tictrac is an app that lets you discover more about yourself from the data you’re creating. It connects with many services and lets you visualize your information in a whole new way.



4. Many partner apps to help you become more and more active and to eat better

  • Take advantage of some of our +100 partner apps! Connect your Withings account with RunKeeper (track your workouts and receive guidance from running experts), Fitboard (a workout/diet archiver), or FitTrend (a fitness journal) for example.
  • Nutrino is one of them, specialized in nutrition. It gives you relevant tips to eat right and stay healthy. It acts like a personal nutritionist. Enter your dietary preferences and goals – Nutrino will immediately create a healthy menu adjusted to your needs.




5. One step beyond into the Internet of Everything

You can create causality links to help you lose weight. Sounds geeky? Imagine that“Achieving your weight loss goal” is a trigger. You can easily program an IFTTT recipe that will automatically initiate an action like unlocking your fridge or simply writing down your success in Evernote, when you reach your weight loss goal.



Want to get the big picture of your health…

  • From a weight point of view? It’s in part 1
  • From a cardiovascular point of view? It’s in part 2
  • From a lifestyle point of view? It’s in part 3



Want more? Here are some impressive weight loss testimonials


Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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