For something completely different…
Over the course of past few months, I have been reading and learning a lot about sleep. I bought a copy of the book Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker and listened to a few interviews on podcasts (I really enjoyed the Joe Rogan Experience episode from April 2018). There are also some good Youtube videos where he has talked extensively on the subject.
Dr. Walker is a sleep scientist & neurologist at University of California, Berkeley and sheds a lot of light on this misunderstood aspect of our life. We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping and Dr. Walker unravels the mysteries behind why its so important to get a good night’s rest. In fact, the book and talk are scary on how much damage you cause if you don’t get enough sleep (for e.g. studies have shown that there is direct correlation between lack of good sleep and some chronic illnesses & diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases & some types of cancer). It’s only in the last decade or so, we have finally started understanding more about sleep and I highly encourage reading or listening to Dr. Walker’s work.
Painting with broad brush strokes, there are three aspects that we need to focus on for a healthy living – diet, exercise & sleep. The three pillars play a huge part on our quality (and quantity) of life. We can easily measure, track & optimize diet & exercise, but sleep is difficult to evaluate without hard data since we simply have to go by a feeling in the morning. You can only improve what you measure & track. This is where the Ōura ring comes in.
Before I write anything about Ōura, I want to make it clear that I have no vested interest and simply providing this information to the readers because I love the product & think its a useful resource.
Ōura, a Finnish company, developed this smart ring that you simply wear like a regular band on any finger and go to bed. As far as I am aware, this is the only sleep-focused wearable on the market, although there has been some chatter that Apple Watch might introduce sleep tracking next year.
I first heard about Ōura about a year ago when Dr Peter Attia was talking about it online. Some initial research showed that it was a great product — and the accuracy has been measured & evaluated against traditional Polysomnography data and has the seal of approval from respected independent 3rd parties. In fact, Dr. Peter Attia ended up investing in this company iirc.
My wife and I both wanted the rings and ordered them back in summer of 2018. But there were production issues with the Rose Gold version that my wife wanted, and after 6 months of waiting, our order was cancelled. However, Ōura offered a nice discount if we were to order again, which we did, and promptly received our rings in a couple of weeks.
FYI, this is the 2nd generation of the smart ring from Ōura. The 2nd generation is much smaller, sleeker and subtle than the 1st gen. Also, the battery life is longer & only needs charging once a week.
The Data & Scoring System
The ring collects data to figure out which stage of sleep you are in through the night (deep sleep, light sleep, REM sleep and awake). In addition, the ring also monitors your heart rate variability, temperature etc. During the day, the ring tracks your overall activity and uses it for the Readiness Score (more on this below).
Based on all the inputs from previous night’s sleep, Ōura gives you a Sleep Score (ranging from 0 to 100) and provides a breakdown of different stages of sleep (see images below).
Having a scoring system is great because you can gamify this and try to reach a higher score each night by adopting good habits & dropping bad ones.
For instance, I have always known that drinking alcohol is bad for your sleep, but I never realized how much the score drops with having just one drink a night. The first set of screenshots here (Images 1 & 2) are from a night when I had one alcoholic drink — sure enough, I did fall asleep normally, but woke up multiple times through the night due to disruptive sleep, and overall quality of sleep was terrible. I got a dismal Sleep Score of 73.
Contrast the above with Image 3 below where I did not have an alcoholic drink & I got sound sleep and hit all stages of sleep appropriately and got a Sleep Score of 95.
The other score provided is called a Readiness Score, a number ranging 0-100 to tell you how ready you are for the day. This is a combination of previous days activity/workout, amount of sleep from the previous night etc. See image 4 below.
The app also provides some guidance for good habits, like asking you to start winding down in the evening (avoid screen time, for instance), and provides a time window when your optimal bed time is.
All in all, this is a fantastic product and I highly recommend it. You can explore more on Ōura’s website.
Improving Sleep Quality
From the Why We Sleep book, Dr Walker provides the following guidelines, which are really common sense pointers…but we always tend to ignore them and end up not getting enough good quality sleep. My wife & I have started incorporating most of these and can already see a difference in the results. The biggest change that I have incorporated and seen positive results include cutting back screen time before bed and keeping the bedroom cooler.
As I mentioned at the start of the post, there are some great podcast episodes or Youtube videos you can listen from Dr. Walker and learn about how critically important sleep is — both from a qualitative & quantitative perspective. It is probably the most ignored pillar of healthy living & I invite you to explore this topic further.
Be sure to share this post and leave a comment below. I’d love to get some feedback from you on this topic.