Sleep Insights / Coaching
Either my sleep is better than I thought, or I just havent worn the Alta HR for long enough yet, because I havent received any useful sleep insights so far. I know they will eventually come as the device gets to know me better, so hopefully by the next article Ill have some to discuss.
What I did receive though is a couple of emails reminding me of all the different sleep features I can and should be making use of. I like that Fitbit follow you up this way, gently motivating you to do important things like set sleep goals and reminders.
Update note: for some reason, the insights never arrived when I had the Alta HR. But they do now with my Versa, even though they are general and would only be personalized if you go premium.
Fitbit Alta Hr Sleep Tracking: Not Quite Living The Dream
But thats enough about exercise, what about the more important business of sleep? The Alta HR is one of only three Fitbits to work with the Fitbit apps new Sleep Stages and Insights features. At the moment, these are more interesting than genuinely useful, but theres definitely some big potential.
Dont loads of other fitness trackers offer a sleep-tracking mode? Yes, but the reason why Fitbits is interesting, and also the reason why its only available on those three trackers, is because it uses heart-rate variability to more accurately pinpoint the exact stage of sleep youre in, rather than an accelerometer or standard heart-rate.
The upshot is that every night you get a lovely graph showing how you phased between REM, light or deep sleep, along with comparisons against your 30-day average and the norm for people in your age group. Considering the amount of data Fitbit holds about fitness and, increasingly, sleep, theres definitely potential for some handy shuteye insights.
Sadly, right now, the word is very much potential. So far, the Sleep Insights Ive received have been very generic comments for example, a regular wake-up time helps lock in a stable circadian rhythm or adding exercises like walking, running and swimming to your routine could help your sleep quality. Not exactly searing insight.
The General Accuracy Of Fitbit Sleep Trackers
In a general view, the various attributes that Fitbit sleep trackers take into account are considered accurate and thus dependable to a given degree. According to a survey from users, the falling asleep time and waking time did not lag over most days. For example, the Fitbit Altra HR records no mistakes in cases when a user decides to use the bathroom or grab a glass of water at night. You can rely on this data as it is proven to be almost perfect.
Its hard to determine the accuracy of the sleep stages by yourself. The fact that you can only compare Fitbits data with data captured in a sleep center gives us the benefit of doubt. The Sleep Insights tool allows you to compare your sleep data alongside your past 30 days and other users. This is the point where you have to rely on the manufacturers claims on accuracy.
While Fitbit themselves has never stated 100% accuracy on their devices, in April 2017, an interesting report was published in the Sleep Journal. Data published in this report was pooled from sleep trackers which measure heart rate and movement and sleep lab tests. The report suggested that sleep trackers can be relied on to improve sleep behaviors. Fitbit has backed this report, too.
Looking closely at data from the sleep insights, a lot of users reported that their sleep cycle rhymed with data of other users within their age bracket and gender. The accuracy concerning sleep patterns of people of different ages and genders is highly accurate and consistent.
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Benchmark Against Your Gender And Age
The screenshot above shows perhaps my favorite part of the new Fitbit sleep tracking data: the benchmark against people your age and gender, and also against your own 30 day average.
Assuming its accurate, to me this is a fantastic way to help people feel less anxious about their sleep. And of course, its actually telling you something useful about the sleep stages, rather than just leaving you to work out what all those graphs mean.
For last nights sleep, the App tells me that my sleep is surprisingly average for men my age. Im almost exactly in the middle for awake, REM and light. And I even got more than average deep sleep, which is the stage that leaves you feeling refreshed.
So going by these results, I might assume I have nothing to complain about. But before I start editing my status as an insomniac, theres a small caveat.
These are benchmarks regarding percentage time in each stage. They dont take into account whether you actually slept for long enough for those percentages to be enough in total.
At the end of the day, how you actually feel in the morning will still tell you more about whether you got enough sleep than graphs, percentages and benchmarks on an App.
Thats not to take away from the potential usefulness of the comparison though. If you regularly get much more or less of a sleep stage than the average person, it might be a good idea to mention it to your doctor to see if they think it needs to be looked into.
What Is Fitbit Premium
If you want to get more from your Fitbit, you can sign up for the brand’s Premium service, which gives you access to hundreds of video and audio workouts, personalized insights, and tailored health and fitness programs. On August 25, Fitbit announced that they are expanding their meditation offering, giving Premium members access to Calm meditations and sleep stories for the first time.
If you’re really into tracking your sleep, Premium gives users more data to delve into, including an analysis of sleep duration and a deeper look into sleeping heart rate, and restlessness. Fitbit Premium also gives users a daily wellness report, which includes guidance on health and recovery, based on Fitbit stats.
Fitbit often offers members a free trial to their Premium service when they buy a tracker, but after that it’ll cost $9.99 a month, or $79.99 a year.
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Problem #: Fitbit Band Breaks
Fitbit devices are pretty high-quality pieces of technology, but theyre definitely not invincible. If your Fitbits band is starting to break, youll need to take advantage of the companys warranty policy.
Its worth noting that if you own a recent Fitbit device and are out of warranty, you can simply buy a new band without replacing the whole unit. If you have an older tracker like the Charge HR, Surge, or Flex, youll want to follow the steps below to get it replaced.
- As noted on Fitbits Returns and Warranty page, you have the option to return your Fitbit device for a full refund within 45 days of your purchase date, provided you ordered the device from Fitbit.com.
- In addition, products ordered in November and December may be returned through January 31 of the following year, or 45 days .
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Change Or Turn Off Your Next Wake
Open the Sleep app on your Apple Watch.
Tap your current bedtime.
To set a new wake-up time, tap the wake-up time, turn the Digital Crown to set a new time, then tap Set.
If you dont want your Apple Watch to wake you in the morning, turn off Alarm.
The changes apply only to your next wake-up alarm, after which your normal schedule resumes.
Note: You can also turn off the next wake-up alarm in the Alarms app . Just tap the alarm that appears under Sleep | Wake up, then tap Skip for Tonight.
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Where To See Your Readings
To see your specific sleep results, you log in to the Fitbit app on your iOS or Android device and sync your Fitbit. The app that tracks your sleep is the same one you use to see your steps. When you do, youll see a brief rundown of your results in the sleep tile.
You need to have slept at least three hours for Sleep Stages to work. It also doesnt work if you wear your tracker loose on your wrist or when its running low on battery power.
If you want to see your readings, tap on the sleep time number to go to the sleep dashboard. From there, you can see each stage of sleep represented in a graph form that breaks down how much time you spent in each sleep stage and how close you were to your overall sleep goal for the day.
Scroll down to see your sleep results for the day and your average amount of sleep for the week. Tap on any specific sleep section to bring up an hour-by-hour explanation of how you slept and which sleep stage you were in at a given time. The 30-day average and benchmarks show how your sleep compares to other people your gender and age.
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Fitbit Vs Iphone Accuracy
Of course, phones have been counting steps for years before fitness trackers became popular. So how does the iPhones fitness tracking features compare to the Fitbit?
Eddie Smith, an actuary from Greenville, North Carolina, tested the two step counters against each other for several months. From December 23, 2014, to March 23, 2015, Smith discovered that the Fitbit logged 509,482 steps and 1,009 floors, while the iPhone logged 506,909 steps and 735 floors. The steps matched closely, but the Fitbit had counted significantly more floors.
After further testing, Smith concluded that this difference was probably due to how the two devices deal with steep terrain. The Fitbit uses its barometer to detect elevation changes, so it counts walking up steep terrain as floors. On the other hand, the iPhone measures floors when you literally walk up steps.
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Dont Tell The Fitbit App You Are Going To Bed
All wrist-based Fitbits automatically sense when you are sleeping when wearing your Fitbit to bed. So there is no need to tell the Fitbit app you are going to bed or starting sleep.
To get a detailed reading of the sleep stages, do not select Begin Sleep Now inside the Fitbit app when you go to bed.
Also, dont tap on Im Awake when you get up.
For whatever reason, when you tap these notices in the Fitbit app, your Fitbit does not reliably track your sleep stages. Why? We dont know!
However, taping these app features does still track your sleep in terms of time awake, restless, and asleep.
We recommend that you allow your Fitbit to automatically track your sleepthat seems to be the best way to get all your sleep data, including sleep stages.
Plus, you dont have to do anythingso its one less thing to do before sleep.
Check Heart Rate Settings
Your Fitbit combines heart rate and movement data to develop a more accurate picture of your sleep cycle.
And seeing sleep stage information depends on your Fitbit getting consistent heart rate information.
When your Fitbit cannot access consistent heart readings, you get a sleep report that only shows the basic informationtime asleep, awake, and restless.
Additionally, you wont see sleep stage info when you sleep for less than 3 hours.
While Fitbit turns heart-rate tracking on by default, its a good idea to check that you didnt accidentally turn it off.
Also, occasionally the Auto setting does not workso we suggest you set your heart rate using the ON position rather than auto.
There is no way to turn off heart-rate tracking on Fitbit Sense or Fitbit Versa 3, so you can skip this one.
To turn on your Fitbits heart rate tracking
- On your Fitbit, open the Settings app > Heart Rate and if off, tap to turn the setting On. If its already on, switch it off, wait a few seconds, and switch it back on.
For Fitbit Alta HR and Fitbit Charge 2, turn on heart-rate tracking in the Fitbit app
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How Does Fitbit Measure Heart Rate
Similar to how we covered the tech for the Apple Watch heart rate monitor, let’s give a quick breakdown to how pretty much all wrist-based heart rate monitoring works.
Photoplethysmography essentially works upon one simple premise: blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. So by using green LEDs and pairing them with photodiodes, Fitbit uses its own in-house PurePulse technology to detect the amount of blood flowing through the wrist.
When your heart beats, this flow, and as a result the green light being absorbed is greater. These lights are then flashed hundreds of times per second in order to gain the most accurate BPM data.
Naturally, while every company dabbling with this optical sensor technology is working from the same blueprint, the accuracy of the readings will come down to how each company’s algorithms interpret the data.
How To Check Your Fitbit Sleep Statistics
After you wake in the morning, you can review the information Fitbit has recorded about your sleep.
Start the Fitbit app on your phone and wait for it to sync. You can see your overall sleep time on the Today page. This is the time Fitbit believes you were asleep the previous evening, not including any time you were restless or woke up during the night.
Tap the sleep entry to go to the detailed Sleep page. At the top of the page, you’ll see a graph that shows how you slept for the last week.
Swipe the graph to see three tabs: how long you slept each night, your sleep schedule , and a summary of your sleep stages.
Below the graph is a list of your individual daily sleep cycles. It displays much more detail about your sleep stages throughout the night.
To see this in more detail, tap the day you want to view. On the detailed page, you can also compare your actual sleep to a “benchmark” of how the average person of your age and sex sleeps.
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Bridging The Generational Divide
Generation Z goes to sleep the latest, but they sleep longer, putting their nightly average of total hours asleep on top. Baby Boomers sleep the least, averaging 6 hours and 33 minutes per night.
REM and light sleep stay pretty stable throughout a persons lifetime but deep sleep takes a hit, decreasing from an average of 17 percent at age 20 to 12 percent at age 70.
According to Grandner, there are two main things that can lead to less deep sleep. The first is age: People naturally get less as they get older, says Grandner. And theres not really much you can do about it.
The second can be more controllable. Anything that interferes with sleep like pain, illness, and medical problems, can keep your body out of deep sleep artificially, says Grandner.
So what can you take away from this Fitbit sleep study? Three things:
- Keep a consistent sleep scheduleideally one that lets you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night. That tends to produce the optimal combined percentage of deep and REM sleep.
- Consider moving your bedtime up. People who go to bed earlier tend to get more sleep and get higher quality sleep, with 9 to 10 pm being the time slot that yields the highest average percentage of REM sleep.
- Remember: Everyone is different. As Grandner told Fitbit, ideal sleep stages are whatever your body does given enough of an opportunity. If you feel great on your current sleep schedule, you may not need to change a thing.
Sleep Stages: What Are They
Your body goes through several sleep stages each night while you sleep. Each one lasts about 90 minutes before you cycle through to the next one. During each stage of the sleep cycle you alternate between deep sleep and light sleep.
When you arent in Rapid Eye Movement sleep, youll alternate between the two Non-Rapid Eye Movement stages. You spend more time in deep sleep during the beginning of the night.
When you enter into REM sleep, you experience vivid dreams . The amount of time you spend in REM sleep typically increases as the night goes on. Earlier in the night your REM stages are brief, but when you get closer to waking up youll spend a lot more time in the vivid dreaming stage of sleep.
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