We all know that when we don’t get enough sleep we look and feel like hell. But catching more zzzs can actually have a major impact on our health and well-being. According to The National Institutes of Health, when we get the recommended 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night, we:
- Decrease our chance of motor vehicle accidents
- Lessen our likelihood of obesity, since sleep deprivation can increase appetite
- Reduce our risk of diabetes and heart problems
- Improve our concentration, reaction time and memory.
- Boost our moods and creativity
- Enhance our immune systems to help ward off colds and infections
But unfortunately, most of us can’t seem to put in the requisite amount of sack time. The National Institutes of Health notes that the average adult gets fewer than seven hours of sleep every night. In fact, 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders. Professional athletes, however, seem far more committed to hitting the sheets. For example, Roger Federer and LeBron James have said they sleep an average of 12 hours per night. Meanwhile, Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Steve Nash are reputed to sleep up to 10 hours per day.
While this may sound like the Holy Grail to those of us who get a paltry four or five hours, some of these athletes still aren’t satisfied with their sleeping habits. They may log in enough hours, but some of them are striving to improve their sleep quality. To get a sounder night’s sleep, many of them have started wearing devices that use sensors to pick up data and provide feedback on everything from how well they sleep to how hard they exert themselves on the courts. And this new breed of wrist-worn gadgets may solve the sleep problems of us mere mortals, as well.
These ingenious devices combine the attributes of a sleep accelerometer along with a pedometer, heart-rate monitor and calorie tracker. This means they can help measure our sleep quality, disclose when our good nights turn tough and even wake us up at the ideal time of our sleep cycle. They also reveal the number of steps we take, how hard and how long we exercise, our heart rates, what times of day (and year) we’re most prone to inactivity and the number of calories we burn.
So what does all of this monitoring actually do? Interestingly enough, the mere act of tracking our sleep and activity levels can be a boon to our health (1). Self-monitoring has been proven to help us improve the quality and duration of our sleep, make us work out more and stick to sounder diets—just by informing us of our strengths and weaknesses and if we are making any progress improving them. And these new trackers provide instant gratification by delivering this information almost instantaneously.
No Complicated Calculations or Pencils Required
Research reveals that when we keep sleep, food and/or activity journals we are the most likely to meet, if not exceed our health, fitness and weight loss goals (2). And the more frequently we write in our logs and the more detailed our accounts, the better chances we have at being victorious. But let’s face it: How many of us are 100% honest about how late we stay up surfing the net or zoning out in front of the TV, or how little we exercise? Not to mention the fact that most of us simply don’t have the time or wherewithal to tabulate how many calories we are burning and what our optimal heart rates are. And in terms of measuring the quality of our sleep, it’s pretty near impossible to monitor it ourselves because we are, well, sleeping. Health monitors can jumpstart our well-being by covering all of those bases. The new gadgets acquire all the crucial info. and then sync up with servers to deliver the vital data that will help us get a better night’s sleep at night and be more active during the day.
Sneaking in Healthier Habits
After monitoring your sleep and activity patterns and how they affect your well-being, these wrist-worn personal trainers give simple tips and set doable goals to let you fit healthier actions into your nightly and daily routines. To get a better night’s sleep, they might recommend putting the kibosh on caffeine by the early afternoon, switching off your computer several hours before bed and hitting the sheets a little earlier than usual. As you achieve these goals, you can add in other easy-to-make-changes. If you miss the mark, some of these monitors automatically level down their suggestions subsequent weeks so you are more likely to accomplish them.
Some days or even weeks we’re rock stars at getting enough sleep and exercise. And sometimes, despite our best efforts, we just fall short. Clearly our sleep and activity levels fluctuate depending on the day, season, our work schedule, when we’re on vacation and our kids’ activities. That’s why these monitors suggest take-charge-of-your-health actions that are pretty much no brainers to accomplish most of the time. This way, we can stick with them over the long-haul. Social networking is also a key component. Most trackers encourage sharing war stories online to create a support system and foster a healthy sense of competition.
According to studies publishes in:
(1) The New England Journal of Medicine, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport and the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
(2) The American Journal of Preventative Medicine