Sleep. Without it, you would die. We should spend about eight hours a day doing it – it’s a way for our body and mind to recuperate physically and psychologically. According to WebMD, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you could be doing your body serious harm. Grumpiness and a sour mood are just a start. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, sex drive and concentration are some of the side effects of a lack of sleep. In the US, according to a Gallop poll, a whopping 40% of adults aren’t getting the proper amount of sleep. It’s one reason why the energy drink industry has boomed over the past 10 years, and without a conscious effort to make a change, the industry and coffee business will continue its success.
I’m one of those adults who doesn’t get the proper amount of sleep. I also consume 10-12 cups of coffee a day and have been that way since my college days, 16 years ago. My blood pressure and weight have suffered due to the lack of sleep. On the days where I get less than five hours of sleep, I find myself less motivated to work out, have a depressed mood and feel much foggier at work. No matter how much coffee or Monster energy drinks I consume, I can’t shake the bad mood and unclear thoughts.
Just like the vast majority of Americans, I decided to take control of my health in 2017 at the start of the year. I finally decided I was going to work less, exercise five to eight hours a week, clean up my diet and get more sleep. Now that I’m in my mid 30s, I no longer feel invincible like I did in my 20s. Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are all a very good reality for my future if I didn’t make a change. Changing your health is not about simply walking 10000 steps a day or adding some broccoli to your diet. Getting healthy means changing your lifestyle. That doesn’t mean your life lacks fun or taste, it’s just a matter of making better choices at all times of the day and night.
I’ll skip the exercise and diet for the sake of this article, and get to the sleep part. Without proper sleep I simply didn’t have the energy to work out. Being tired, I’d rather veg on the couch watching TV or a movie. That led to weight gain and high blood pressure. Having excess weight made it even harder to get off the couch. It’s a bad cycle to get stuck in. Since I decided to be more active I invested in a Fitbit Alta because it has automatic activity tracking as well as sleep tracking too. I also liked that it was small on my wrist and has good battery life where I don’t need to charge it every night.
Just having the Alta on my wrist serves as a constant reminder that I have something holding me accountable for my activities.
When delving through the Fitbit app for iOS one night, I realized there was a setting to remind me when I should get in bed. With the reminder set in the app, my Alta now reminds me with a soft vibration and notification that it’s time for bed. This is good for me because some nights I would get caught up in my writing without realizing how much time had passed. Just getting to bed is the first step in getting regular sleep. Having a regular sleep schedule can help your body regulate its hormones and have you feeling better.
Once asleep, the Fitbit Alta keeps track of how long I sleep and monitors the sleep quality. I have always known that I don’t get enough sleep, but with proper tracking I was seeing just how little sleep I was actually getting. With that information available, it made me aware of how much sleep I needed to get. In my first two weeks with the Alta, I was going to bed at 1:30am and getting up at 6:30am. Having the graph served as a visual reference that made it easier to realize I needed to make a change.
Since then I have slowly been adding more sleep to my routine and having been feeling much better as a result. In combination with a better diet and exercise, I have also lost almost 20 pounds of weight and my doctor reduced my blood pressure medicine dosage. She was impressed with my health results and even looked over my sleep data accumulated with the Alta. She was happy that I was getting more sleep which is now averaging seven hours and 13 minutes every night. More importantly though, the mental fog is lifted, my energy levels have soared, and I am working out more. I’m consciously spending more time with my friends and walking my dog more who is much happier since I’m spending less time ignoring her on the couch.
While many people are aware that they aren’t sleeping enough, the Fitbit activity tracker makes puts your sleep time down into an app you can look over with your eyes. There’s no cheating with a fitness/sleep tracker and it gives you a dose of reality that can help you turn your health in the right direction. While there are dozens of activity monitors that can help improve your health, I went with the Fitbit Alta mainly because of its price, size and long battery life.